Posted by : Deborah Takahashi Thursday, February 17, 2011

Plot Summary:
Just when life can not get any harder, David Yaffe has had it real hard. Not only did he stand trial for his girlfriend's accidental death, he is forced to rejoin the "normal" world by starting all over again in a new town. Although he was acquitted of the crime (his girlfriend tried to break up a fight between her and her drugged out brother and was fatally injured), David is haunted by this incident and is struggling to keep it together. After the trial, David's parents decided that it would be good for him to move in with Uncle Vic and Aunt Julia since they live near his new school. What's worse is the moment he stepped in the house, he could cut the tension between his aunt and uncle with a knife. However, he witnessed something rather odd. Rather than speaking to each other, his aunt and uncle use their daughter, Lily, as a go between. David hasn't seen his baby cousin in years and there is something strange about her.  Not only did she thrive off her parents unhappiness, she actually asked David if he felt powerful by killing his girlfriend, which is a little odd for a twelve-year-old to ask.

Critical Evaluation:
Not only is this story a quick read, it is wonderfully written and incredibly suspenseful. I simply could not put this book down because I needed to know what was happening to David. Moreover, Lily is just awful. The things that she says and does to David made me think that this child is psychotic. Werlin does an amazing job with the character development, especially when it comes to parents who are just clueless when it comes to interacting and speaking with their children. All of the parents in this book are so consumed with themselves that David, Kathy, and Lily are, in my respects, victims to their parents wants and needs. David and Lily are essentially alike where their anger towards themselves turned into such guilt that they convinced themselves that they are the one's responsible for the death of their loved ones. David matures very quickly in this story and it is amazing to see how to awful accidents can reveal just how fragile we human beings are. This is a very thought provoking title that will generate a lot of conversation.

Information about the Author:
According to her website, Nancy Werlin has done a variety of things such as a technical editor for software and internet. She was born and raised in Peabody, Massachusetts, and earned her BA in English from Yale University. She lives near Boston, Massachusetts, and has written eight young adult novels and several of them have won awards and honors. Here is a statement from one of Werlin's fans:

“An Edgar-award-winning author who writes psychological thrillers with the same depth and punch as Ruth Rendell and Minette Walters with the kind of noirish feel that permeates many of my favorite crime novels. A writer who has a keen understanding of how kids react and feel — who goes for the gut and never flinches on true emotions, who creates characters so true they make you cry and feel a little something yourself.
“Chances are, many of you haven't heard of this author. Or if you have, it's because her name has come up in a completely different context. That's because Nancy Werlin writes novels geared for young adults, and so if you were — like me — not as inclined towards YA as to adult crime fiction, then you would have passed her by. And that would be a shame, because she's simply one of the best crime novelists going right now. Period.” Sarah Weinman (12/06/2006
Teen Mysteries

Reading Level/Interest:
Grades 9 & up

Books Similar to The Killer's Cousin:

Awards & Recognition:
  • Edgar Award Winner (The Killer's Cousin)
  • Edgar Award Nominee (Locked Inside)
  • 2006 National Book Award Finalist(Rules of Survival)
  • 2004 ALA Book Editor's Choice (Double Helix)
  • Starred Reviews in School Library Journal, Booklist,and Kirkus (Black Mirror)
  • New York Public Library Best Books for Teens (Are you Alone on Purpose?)

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Deborah Takahashi
Pasadena, CA, United States
My name is Deb and I am a Librarian who absolutely loves to read and recommend books to teen and tween readers. In this blog, you will find reviews on a variety resources ranging from books, movies, video games, and much more. Please feel free to leave any feedback, especially book recommendations!
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