The Killer's Cousin
Werlin, N. (2007). The Killer's Cousin. New York: Penguin Group. ISBN: 9780803733701.
"...I had not meant even to hurt her. But I had, and now I lived forever with the abyss that separated me from people who didn't know what it was like, to have killed. To be a killer. Acquittal had nothing to do with it. I was a killer. And I know in my gut when I met another of my kind." -page 175
David Yaffe is a high school senior, for the second time. During his first year as senior he was being charged for brutally murdering his girlfriend. But, he got off, possibly due to family connections. He is now giving high school another try in hopes of clearing his reputation in another town and having another chance at getting in to college. But, this isn't a story about David, but his eleven year old cousin Lily. Lily is an odd, vindictive little girl who used to have an older sister named Kathy. But, Kathy tragically committed suicide. Do David and Lily both have a similar secret that they are hiding?
The Killer's Cousin is a young adult thriller that takes place in modern time. The narrative is made up of quick, usually simple sentences that contributes to it's readability. Though this book reads more like a juvenile fiction novel, it is considered YA based on some strong language and sexual content.
Mysteries unfold and character suspicions flip flop. For example, there are two deaths in this narrative. One being Emily, David's ex girlfriend, and the other being Kathy, Lily's older sister who she was notably jealous of. This story is psychological and for the majority of the novel we do not know if David is being rational, or projecting his feelings concerning the death of the ex girlfriend on to Lily.
Something that I love about this book is the instability of the characters, which added to the edge of your seat suspense. For example, the younger cousin Lily goes from innocent/insecure, to annoying, to a conniving and evil figure within seconds. I don't have much to say for the character development in this book, but I don't think that was ever particularly the intent of the author. I also can't guarantee any heartfelt or moving themes or realizations. This book is a short, suspenseful read that would be suitable for all young adult reading levels.
Many secrets bubble just beneath the surface of this skillful thriller narrated by a high-school senior who has been accused?and acquitted?of murdering his girlfriend. David Yaffe moves from Baltimore to Cambridge to avoid publicity, but instead of finding refuge with Uncle Vic, Aunt Julia and cousin Lily, he is shown to their attic apartment and expected to fend for himself. His relatives appear to be conducting a cold war. Still blaming each other for their daughter Kathy's suicide four years ago, Julia and Vic have stopped speaking to each other. The one who suffers the most from their silence is 11-year-old Lily, who shows signs of being emotionally disturbed. Suspense rises to a feverish pitch as pieces of a complex puzzle fall into place, involving Kathy's death and Julia and Vic's estrangement from each other and from David's parents. Even Kathy's ghost seems to make an appearance, imploring David to "help Lily." Meanwhile, Lily is doing everything she can to turn her parents against him. David's attempts to pull the family together fail miserably until, in the aftermath of a chilling climax, he confronts his own demons as he attempts to help Lily dispel hers. The novel's gothic flavor, compelling minor characters (David's skinhead friend, Frank, and Raina, a college student and artist) and subtle exploration of guilt and complicity add texture to this tense psychological drama -Publishers Weekly
This is one of my favorite books in the world (though I haven't seen it in about four months cause I lent it to a so-called "friend" who promises to return it "any day now", argh). The thing I like best is the characters. David was so real to me, afraid of himself, lonely, guilty. Frank was probably my favorite character in the book. He reminds me of certain friends of mine. At first I really disliked Lily -- she seemed like a demon-child -- but after I realized what had happened I felt sorry for her. The only part of the book that I didn't like was Kathy's ghost. I didn't think that belonged in an otherwise realistic story, though it was through Kathy that David realized what Lily had done. All in all, a great book which I'd recommend to anyone who likes suspense novels. -Reader's Review, Meaghan Good