Title: No One Else Can Have You
Author: Kathleen Hale
Publisher: HarperTeen, 2014
I have to admit, I was sold on this book when I saw the cover. It pretty much perfectly sums up the book's contents. I've read people comparing this book to Fargo, which I can't speak to since I haven't seen it, but from what I've read about it that's probably accurate. Personally I was reminded more of the movie Hot Fuzz while I was reading this.
Eighteen-year-old Ruth Fried is found brutally murdered in a cornfield, stuffed like a scarecrow and hanged from a tree, "like a buck on a basketball hoop" (p 43). This shakes up Friendship, Wisconsin, a small town where nothing bad ever happens. The local law enforcement is used to saving pets, not investigating murders. Everyone is pleasant and polite but not overly friendly or close. Eventually Ruth's boyfriend is incarcerated and charged with her murder, but once Ruth's mother gives Kippy, our narrator, Ruth's diary and she begins to read it, she starts thinking things don't add up. Especially when Ruth's brother Davey voices his doubts as well.
Kippy Bushman is incredibly awkward and naive. However, she is aware of this, which makes her kind of endearing. She knows she's got diarrhea of the mouth and does a lot of "blurting," a word Hale uses frequently, but her heart is in the right place. Even if she does tend to bite people sometimes. She begins nosing around, with Davey's help, and starts uncovering a lot of unsavory secrets her small town is hiding.
I'm not going to lie, things get pretty freaking bleak at a few points in this novel. At one point I wasn't sure how Kippy was even going to prove anything to the local law enforcement, considering they were feeling like the case was closed, mostly because of personal vendettas. God bless her, she keeps it up.
I loved a lot of the secondary characters, like the people in the Non-Violent Communication Group, especially Mildred the lunch lady. Unbalanced but completely willing to help (and break the law).
Basically this book is the whole package. There is a lot of awkward humor, a terrifying murder, a compelling mystery that keeps you guessing—I had my suspicions but they kept going back and forth—and great characters. I think I will be nominating this for a Morris Award, it is that good. I would recommend this for older teens as there is a lot of language, but boy howdy, if you're looking for a fun, gritty mystery full of small-town charm and terror, this is the one for you, you betcha.
Disclaimer: I got this book from my local library.