Dutton/Penguin, 2017 289 pages
Makani has recently relocated from Hawaii to live with her Grandmother in rural Nebraska in order to escape a mysterious past scandal that still haunts her. The star of the upcoming drama club production of Sweeney Todd, no connection to Makani, gets brutally murdered in her own house, causing speculation and near hysteria in the small town. Suspicion falls on outcast, Oliver, who Makani had a secret fling with over the summer. Through the crisis the two teenagers reconnect and slowly start a relationship. Meanwhile, other teenagers are getting systematically murdered. Makani, Oliver, and her two best friends try to determine who the murderer might be, all while trying to stay safe. Makani has been noticing cupboards being left open in her kitchen and certain objects moving to different locations than where she left them. Is her grandmother getting dementia or is there someone in her house? Who is committing the murders and what is the connection between the victims? What is the secret behind Makani's tragic past and why is Oliver a loner? Most of all, which teenagers will survive this slaughter? All of these questions are answered by the book's end and at least one major character will not survive the killing spree.
I love Stephanie Perkins. I gobbled up all three of her previous interconnected books for teenagers starting with Anna and the French Kiss. Since Perkins only has written romance, I was surprised to hear that she wrote a horror story and certainly skeptical. I should not have worried. Perkins knows how to write to ensure the reader can't put the book down. I don't know how she does it, but her books are so engaging that you can't stop reading them. Once I started this book, I had to keep reading, neglecting other things I had to do, including making my family dinner. My fifteen-year-old daughter picked the book out of my beach bag on the way home from the shore and had a similar experience. In fact we both fought over who's turn it was to read it. She doesn't like horror (at all), yet loved this book. The story is truly creepy and gory, yet still contains Perkins signature romantic plotline and quirky, yet relatable, characters. The mystery of the murderer's identity is solved about half way through the story, but then the mystery becomes who will be the next victim and what is the connect between the murdered teens. Makani and Oliver always happen to be conveniently at the wrong place at the wrong time, but the reader will be so absorbed in the story that the unrealistic coincidences won't matter. The books ends a bit abruptly for my taste, but will allow the reader the freedom to imagine what will come next for the remaining characters. This story would make a great teen movie and I will be very surprise if someone doesn't snatch-up the movie rights. Another winner from a proven reader-pleaser.