Thursday, September 6, 2012

ARC Book Review: The Dead Girls Detective Agency by Suzy Cox

Title: The Dead Girls Detective Agency
Author: Suzy Cox
Publisher: HarperTeen
Release Date: September 18, 2012

Cover Impressions: This cover feels very contemporary fiction to me.  There is nothing about the cover image that feels supernatural and only the title hints at the paranormal elements that are crucial to the story.  I do not feel this one would stand out on a shelf.

The Gist:
Having been pushed in front of a subway, Charlotte wakes to find herself in a swanky hotel and in the company of the Dead Girls Detective Agency.  Together they must find Charlotte's murderer in order to give her a chance to move on.   

This was a very tough read for me and I am surprised that I managed to make it to the end.  The Dead Girls Detective Agency had a fun and interesting premise, but the writing, characters and plot were lackluster at best.

From the very first chapter, this novel featured A LOT of dialogue.  I get it, Charlotte had to be introduced into this new world and some groundwork had to be laid.  However, there had to be a way to accomplish this that did not involve pages and pages of info-dumping with very little in the way of comic relief and no action whatsoever.  For the first half of the book, we are forced to endure endless explanations of the rules.  What the rules are, who made the rules, how to bend the rules, what happens when you break the rules.  This is interrupted occasionally while Charlotte moons over the boyfriend that she left behind, realizes that he is a selfish twit, and then is informed by her ghost-mates that she gets 9 chances to break the rules - so let's go have some fun!  Seriously?  All that time spent building the world around these rules and then we frivilously toss them out the window so that we can drop in on Beyonce and Jay-Z?  That feels cheap to me and makes me angry that I had to sit through Ghost 101 when none of it actually mattered.

The writing featured a great deal of teen-speak that did not feel genuine.  In all my years of teaching, I have never heard an actual, honest-to-goodness teenager use an acronym in a sentence.  Yet, these teens drop OMG's like a middle-aged parent trying to be "cool" with their kid's friends.  The author also chose to engage in one of my serious pet peeves in YA: name-dropping.  I know it is tempting.  You want your book to be relevant, you want your readers to be able to relate to the characters: "She likes Simple Plan? OMG! I love Simple Plan - we could be BFF's!!"  In reality, in stinks of desperation. 

The plot of The Dead Girls Detective Agency crawled.  I found myself skimming pages, just waiting to get to some action.  There were some higher points, like when the girls possessed the cheerleaders (aptly named the Tornahos) but even those did not live up the the potential for hilarity.  There was very little in the way of action.  We had a few tense moments where the killer is revealed and a few more when Tess and Edison's connection is revealed.  I was pretty disappointed at the choice of murderer.  I am never a fan when the killer is revealed as being someone to whom we are barely introduced and, in this case, doesn't even warrant a name.

Despite my obvious issues with plot and writing, Cox could have pulled me back in with some kick-ass characters.  Alas, this was not the case.  The characters felt very cookie-cutter to me: the sweet one, the nerdy one, the fashionista, the bitch, the slutty cheerleaders, the sleazy ex-boyfriend, the new love interest.  All of them acted as expected.  They didn't do anything exciting and they didn't have any clever, funny or interesting dialogue.  Charlotte was incredibly boring, naive and gullible.  I was also bothered by the fact that she described herself as a prolific reader - yet she didn't speak like one.  At one point she even says "And one time, she helped me with a Shakespeare assignment, because I'd just finished reading Harry Potter and kept getting confused between Halmet and Hagrid and it was completely messing up my essay on why he had issues."  Seriously?  You claim to read a vast and varied array of books and yet you have trouble distinguishing between two characters?  I just couldn't relate to a girl that 1) dumped her best friend the minute she found a boyfriend 2) talked about the boyfriend non-stop for the majority of the book and 3) didn't use her special new ghostly powers to do some serious damage to the slutty cheerleaders and the boyfriend who hooked up with three of them within a few days of her funeral.

The Dead Girls Detective Agency just didn't work for me.  I was expecting a fluffy and humorous read, but this one just didn't have enough substance to hold it together.   

Teaching/Parental Notes:

16 and up
Gender:  Female
Sex:  Kissing, talk of "hooking up"
Violence:  Murder - pushed in front of a subway
Inappropriate Language: Bitch, Pissed, Ho, Asshole, Slut, Whore
Substance Use/Abuse: None


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