No One Else Can Have You

Book review by
Mary Eisenhart, Common Sense Media
No One Else Can Have You Book Poster Image
Darkly funny, very violent high school murder mystery.

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational value

Between the horror and the humor, there's not much room for learning, but readers will pick up a cartoonishly exaggerated bit of rural Wisconsin color. 

Positive messages

For good or ill, there's more to people than you might think. As Kippy navigates a world in which any of the people she's known from birth might be a killer, many people she can't stand turn out to have a good side. Examples of small-town rallying around a cause go to absurdly destructive extremes in the story, but there's also an appreciation for the sense of connection.

Positive role models & representations

Kippy, a good student dealing with the normal hassles of small-town teen life, her mother's recent death, and the awkwardness of being a late bloomer, gets points for determination and creative thinking in trying to solve a murder. She also drinks beer, routinely lies to her dad about where she is and what she's doing, lies to other people, and burglarizes a house. Adult characters, for the most part, are complete no-hopers, from Kippy's school-counselor father who calls her "pimple" and "chocolate butt" to the lawyer who was having an affair with the victim. They're usually well-intentioned, even when doing wildly inappropriate things like packing Kippy off to a mental hospital. Ruth's brother Davey, who becomes Kippy's love interest, is either a hero or a coward, depending on your point of view, because of the way he got himself home for his sister's funeral. 

Violence

It's part of the genre, but violence -- against people and animals -- is pretty much off the chart and wallowed in, from gruesome murder to involuntary confinement in mental hospitals. For example, the murdered teen's bereaved brother, speaking at her funeral, says, "She probably had to watch her killer take out that needle and thread. They only dropped her from the tree after the fact -- after she'd already suffocated on her own teeth and bile and straw. Then they did her like a buck from a basketball hoop."

Sex

The sexually active murder victim's diary rates the penis size of her boyfriend and the middle-aged guy she's cheating on him with. The boyfriend preys on female students for sexual services, especially oral sex. A classmate is said to have had sex with every male in town. Narrator Kippy has a comically intense, awkward makeout scene with her new love interest.

Language

"F--k," "s--t," "piss," "ass," "dick," and other crude language appear on many, many pages.

Consumerism

Narrator Kippy hero-worships news anchor Diane Sawyer. One scene includes references to The Shawshank Redemption. Commercial products get frequent mentions (Subaru, Jell-O, Milwaukee's Best, M&M's), not always in a positive context, as part of the scene-setting.

Drinking, drugs & smoking

One young adult character gets drunk on beer; in another scene he and Kippy drink together. When Kippy is sent to a mental hospital, she and the other patients are kept in a drugged stupor. References to other teens having marijuana.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that No One Else Can Have You mixes humor, horror, sex, small-town strangeness, and teen angst in a violent but funny brew. The story opens with the grotesque murder of a teenage girl in small-town Wisconsin and frequently rehashes the gory details with gusto. As the victim's BFF tries to find the killer, she uncovers a raft of sleazy secrets the locals would rather keep buried. She also lies to her dad and other adults, burgles a house, and commits other questionable acts in her quest for the truth -- and also attracts the killer's interest. Teen and adult characters seem to be constantly having sex with one another; the murder victim was especially interested in the penis size of her various partners. Some underage drinking and drunkenness; creepy mental-hospital scenes with mind-altering drugs; abundant crude language.

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What's the story?

In Friendship, Wisconsin, \"where no one else seemed to understand anything except how to gut a buck and go to church and be over-the-top nice without ever really bonding,\" homecoming queen Ruth Fried and awkward Kippy Bushman have been BFFs from childhood, though Ruth's love life is starting to come between them. Then, on her way to a sleepover at Kippy's, Ruth is abducted, horribly murdered, and found the next morning in a cornfield. Ruth's mother gives her daughter's diary to Kippy so she can find some sweet eulogy material, and Kippy reads the snarky comments her popular friend makes about her. The service goes badly, and, soon after, the victim's football-hero boyfriend is jailed for her murder. Kippy doesn't like the guy, but she also doesn't think he did it; her quest to find the true killer lands her in many kinds of trouble and brings her friends in strange places.

Is it any good?

NO ONE ELSE CAN HAVE YOU is a bit of a kitchen-sink combo that's not for the faint of heart, but fans of gruesome absurdity (think Fargo) will love it. It mixes murder mystery, broad regional comedy, and sexed-up high school life with all the trappings of the horror genre (from gore, violence, and creepy mental hospitals to teens making ill-advised moves). Many teens will relate to Kippy's out-of-place feelings, her determination, and her creative-thinking skills as she tries to make sense of who her late friend was, whether they were really friends at all, and why she's so determined to find the killer anyway.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the level, and detailed description, of violence in this story. Do you think it adds to the story (and its scariness), or would the mystery tale have been just fine without it?

  • Do you think reading other people's diaries is a good idea or a sure way to learn something you don't want to know?

  • How does life in Friendship compare with life in your town? Do you know any similar characters?

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