No One Else Can Have You by Kathleen Hale
Small towns are nothing if not friendly. Friendship, Wisconsin (population: 688) is no different. Around here, everyone wears a smile. And no one ever locks their doors. Until, that is, high school sweetheart Ruth Fried is found murdered. Strung up like a scarecrow in the middle of a cornfield.
Unfortunately, Friendship’s police are more adept at looking for lost pets than catching killers. So Ruth’s best friend, Kippy Bushman, armed with only her tenacious Midwestern spirit and Ruth’s secret diary (which Ruth’s mother had asked her to read in order to redact any, you know, sex parts), sets out to find the murderer. But in a quiet town like Friendship—where no one is a suspect—anyone could be the killer.
This book is strange and wacky and I absolutely love it.
No One Else Can Have You starts off with the discovery of Ruth Fried's body, stuffed with straw and hung from a tree in the middle of a corn field - a pretty gruesome scene. As Kippy investigates her friend's death, she uncovers shocking police negligence, small town secrets, and the darker side of Friendship. But this is not an overly serious story.
Although a lot of heavier themes run through the book (murder, grief, PTSD, etc), No One Else Can Have You is funny and, above all, entertaining. Most of the dialogue contains "okeydokeys" and "don'tcha knows", the story takes a number of unexpected turns, and the characters are hilarious. Some of them are almost caricatures, but Hale rounds them out and gives them realistic and endearing qualities along with their goofier ones. Kippy herself has a lot of personality, as eccentric as she is lovable. Her honest, occasionally foot-in-mouth narration kept the story interesting. Actually, she's pretty badass. And although she's no Sherlock Holmes, Kippy was better than a lot of YA "detectives."
The murder, in all its grotesqueness, was the perfect offset to the strangeness of Friendship and its inhabitants. Kippy's investigation was amateur, as to be expected (what sixteen-year-old has access to a forensics team?), but it also carried a lot of weight with it. As Kippy uncovered more evidence that the killer was still on the loose, and as that evidence was repeatedly ignored by the police department, the more dire the situation became. Friendship's smiling, happy populace contrasted with all the secrets the town kept buried like black and white, and the contrast kept the book from being too dark or too light.
There were a few little things in the book that I didn't like as much or weren't, technically, politically correct (ie, referring to Norse mythology as "Nazi stuff"), but overall it was a solid read. The pacing is perfect, all the crazy things work, and even the romance is good. If you're looking for a cold, hard mystery novel, this isn't it. But No One Else Can Have You is a wildly entertaining story with a dark side, and the most fun you'll ever have reading about murder.
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