Title: You Owe Me a Murder
Author: Eileen Cook
Released: March 5 2019
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Genre: Mystery / Thriller
Goodreads Rating: 3.68 (of 41 ratings)
Book Princess Reviews receives a percentage of commission from purchases you make after following Book Depository links provided on our site.
17-year-old Kim never expected to plot a murder. But that was before her boyfriend dumped her for another girl. Now, Kim’s stuck on a class trip to London with him and his new soulmate and she can’t help wishing he was a little bit dead, even if she’d never really do that.
But when Kim meets Nicki, a stranger on the plane who’s more than willing to listen to Kim’s woes, things start to look up. Nicki’s got a great sense of humor, and when she jokes about swapping murders, Kim plays along—that is, until Kim’s ex-boyfriend mysteriously dies.
Blackmailed by Nicki to fulfill her end of the deal, Kim will have to commit a murder or take the fall for one.
Disclaimer: I received this ARC courtesy of HMH Teen through advanced distribution at YALLFest. I am grateful for the opportunity to review an ARC for my readers, but this will not influence my final rating. All opinions expressed in this review are my own and based solely on the book.
This book was meh for me. That’s the best and first word that comes to mind when I go to describe my experience. It’s such a horrible, horrible way to finish up a read, but also something that I know can be super subjective—so if you’re on the fence, here are my major thoughts to help you make a final decision.
Kim and her boyfriend Connor just broke up, but her parents didn’t let her get out of the Student Scholars for Change trip to London that she absolutely begged to go on, so now she’s stuck in a foreign country with a boy who wants nothing to do with her. I’ve never been to London, much like Kim, and would have liked more description of the sites the visiting students looked at. Sometimes London references were A) lost on me or B) awkwardly tossed in. Kim spends more time in a Thai restaurant than she does exploring any local sites. I guess I’ll just keep saving up for my own trip to the UK!
Cook’s writing style leans heavily on tell over show. A huuuge part of my “meh”-ing in this book came from how little emotion I got off protagonist Kim. As we know, her ex ends up dead. But the writing following Kim’s discovery left me hugely disconnected:
I felt like a puppet that had its strings cut. I collapsed to the floor. Alex dropped down next to me. There was a strange smell in the air, like hot metal. Coppery, like burning pennies. I struggled to get up. You Owe Me a Murder, p. 78 (Quote from an advance uncorrected proof.)
The combination of short sentences (better, in my opinion, for academic writing than fiction) and lack of emotionalism (Kim is collapsing, she is smelling, but what is she thinking?) just did me in. This style holds up throughout the book, which made it hard for me to care about pretty much everything happening. As a character, Kim is said to be very analytical and smart, so this could be a reflection of her personality. It just didn’t work for me.
At the airport on her way to London, Kim meets and rapidly befriends Nickie. I liked Nickie’s character the most, if only because she was the most fleshed-out and interesting character. During the Students for Change trip, Kim also grows close to fellow student Alex and … that was literally the weirdest relationship I’ve ever read. I’m sorry. She lied to him various times, he called her out, (she apologized in a non-apology way), she lied to him in various ways again and went full shade, he got upset, and then with no actual make-up moment they are together. I DON’T care if you think this is a spoiler because how is this EVEN a developed relationship of any kind. (Okay, if you think this is a spoiler I’m a little sorry but that whole dynamic confused the hell out of me.)
I do have two issues that I will drop into a magical spoiler box so read at your own discretion because they do ruin some plot points.
CLICK HERE FOR SPOILERS
(1) TREATMENT OF SUICIDE / MENTAL ILLNESS
Kim’s ex’s death is framed as an accident/suicide. By the end of the book, there is no conclusive evidence for either theory. Immediately after his (Conner’s) death, there is talk of ending the trip. One student is like, “I feel bad the guy decided to kill himself, but it has nothing to do with me.” (YOMAM, p. 87.) On page 86, the same character said, “I guess the police will ship …” —his Adam’s apple bobbed in his throat — “the body back.” As a reader, I personally ended up with the impression that Connor’s apparent suicide was a minor inconvenience to his trip-mates, which was not a portrayal I appreciated. Not enough of the book is spent discussing the fact that someone *actually* died, especially considering so many people honestly think it was by suicide.
Kim lies about dating Connor. The truth later comes out that she and Connor had a sexual relationship, wherein she was emotionally invested but he only wanted sex. When Connor ended the relationship, she began to stalk him. My issue with this (besides the very fact that stalking is not okay) is that Kim isn’t really called out on her stalking. She admits the truth of the relationship to new “boyfriend” Alex (YES, the stalking too) and Alex basically says, “Wow, Connor is a jerk.” OKAY, but then she stalked him. STALKING isn’t okay.
If you did read the spoiler section, yes, it’s a lot. And you might be thinking, SHA, HOW ARe you just meh with this happening? But with the writing style and the lack of character development/emotionalism it was just kind of hard to care? I kind of just worked towards the end to see what happened and then I was like,
This book gets 2.5 crowns from me. It feels kind of apt that the radio is playing Demi’s Sorry, Not Sorry right now. If I can’t emotionally connect to something… I mean, what else to do right?
What’s the last book you read that wasn’t terrible, wasn’t good, but was kind of just “a book you read”?