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A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Dear Killer, written by first-time author Katherine Ewell when she was 17 (she's still in college at Stanford), takes the reader inside the mind of a serial killer who's a high-school girl and typical teen in many ways. Blood's mentioned a lot and a couple of murders are described, one somewhat graphically. Overall, though, the violence is fairly mild given the subject matter, and the book is much more about Kit's journey to understanding morality and where it comes from than it is about the killing itself.
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What's the story?
Trained from a very young age to carry on her mother's serial-killing tradition, Kit killed her first victim when she was only 9. Now that she's 17, her mother has retired from killing and Kit carries on alone. She's been dubbed the Perfect Killer because she never leaves a trace behind. She's proud of her record and even admits to enjoying killing. One day she receives a request to kill a classmate and decides to take on the challenge. When she learns that her intended victim is also the victim of an abusive boyfriend, she begins to question the truth behind what she was always taught, that there's no right and no wrong. As she continues to kill, she comes under the increasing suspicion of the police and eventually must decide between a life forever on the run or forever behind bars.
Is it any good?
Coming as it does from such a young author, DEAR KILLER is a remarkably mature achievement. The narrator's voice is rock solid and believable, and the story is very well constructed and realized. The book's not so much a page-turning thriller as it is a study in morality, but the compelling protagonist-killer and well-paced action hold the reader's interest in a vice-like grip.
A minor flaw that many teens won't notice, but if they do will take them out of the story at times, is the inauthentic vocabulary. The story's set in London, but Kit uses words like "tennis shoe" instead of "trainer." Her narrative voice lacks any sort of British cadence, and the occasional use of "arse" becomes a bit jarring in contrast. Again, a minor flaw, and we have every reason to look forward with high expectations to more from this talented young woman.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Kit's "nothing is right and nothing is wrong" morality. Where does our morality come from? Are there things that are always right or always wrong no matter the circumstances?
Why are stories about killers so intriguing? What makes a good thriller?
Kit justifies her killing because she thinks "people need something to be afraid of" and scared people join together more than people who aren't afraid. What's wrong with that justification?
- Author: Katherine Ewell
- Genre: Mystery
- Topics: Friendship, High School
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
- Publication date: April 1, 2014
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 13 - 17
- Number of pages: 368
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Audiobook (abridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.