The Killer in Me is an upcoming debut young adult novel by Margot Harrison. Nina Barrows is a normal high school senior. She goes to class, suffers from occasional bad choices, and is trying to get into her college of choice. Oh, and she sees the actions of a serial killer every time she goes to sleep. For as long as she can remember, Nina has been connected to a boy who she sees when she sleeps. At first, it’s innocent; but as he ages, the events of his childhood shape who he becomes as an adult. He names himself The Thief and carefully constructs his second identity as a killer. He will never be caught, because he knows it will destroy the small family he has created. And he’s too careful. When Nina gets a chance to confront him, she and her friend Warren travel to the deserts of New Mexico to find a man who may only be a product of her imagination.
I did enjoy the premise of a protagonist who has a connection to the killer. It’s especially interesting that she can see what he does; that she literally gets into his head. Margot Harrison does a good job of showing how that has affected Nina’s mentality, so there’s a little bit of an unreliable narrator aspect there. It was cool to read how straightforward she was about knowing how he operated as a serial killer, something that made her pretty creepy to me. By watching him, she has intimate details of how he goes about planning and committing each crime. Because she’s aware of how he sets up a crime, she’s learned to avoid sleep when he’s preparing in order to avoid seeing the murder, something that has affected her health. The reasoning behind her connection was not explained at first, so I was curious how this was possible. I ended up being disappointed when the reason behind it was revealed because I couldn’t help but feel that it was a bit of a cop-out. I had hoped it would have gone a bit deeper than it did. I think this is a result of it being a contemporary novel. Nina’s ability couldn’t be explained in a fantastical way because it was occurring in the real world, so instead we are given a flimsy medical reason behind it.
Unfortunately, I feel like the full synopsis of the book (I’m going off of the one found here on goodreads) gave far too much away. Readers go into it knowing that The Thief may not actually exist. Because of that, I naturally assumed that any possible twists in The Killer in Me would occur later in the novel and only be vaguely related to the synopsis. That sort of happened, but I think that most of the shock impact of the novel was taken away before I had even started reading it. We were given too much of the surprise to make the book a thriller. To me, it ended up being more of a discovery-type novel à la coming of age without actually being a coming of age story. It was odd.
I think that is why The Killer in Me‘s conclusion fell pretty flat. While the prose was engaging, the plot just sputtered along until it completely fizzled out. As things were revealed in the novel, I was able to predict where the plot would go next. It made it very difficult to see this as a thriller when nothing really made me nervous the way that other thrillers have. I didn’t dislike it, but it didn’t really stand as a strong novel to me.
2. 5 stars.
I received an uncorrected proof copy of The Killer in Me from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review. The Killer in Me will be released on July 12th, 2016.