Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Supernatural Murder Mystery

A breakout author is a wonderful thing. They are excited, they have years of pent-up writer emotions built up inside, and they have nothing to lose. Once they have a book that sells decently, they feel an obligation to their readers, to their characters, and of course, to their publishers. But there is this brief and solitary moment when they write a book just because they want to, with nothing else factoring in. I often see that breakout novel as the best work they ever did! Kim Harrington did just that with her supernatural murder mystery called Clarity. She put it all out there, with no fears and no holds barred.

Clarity Fern, who goes by Clare, is not your average high school student. She doesn't have any friends besides her brother Periwinkle (Perry) and his best friend, Nate. She is an outsider in school, but not for the usual reasons. Clare can see past events by touching objects. Her mother, Starla, can read people's minds, and her brother can speak to dead people (if they are hanging around, of course). Together, they are the "local psychics" of a small beach town. The tourists love them, the locals hate them or ignore them. When a dead girl's body is found, there is more to worry about than the new psychic in town.

Clare's ex-boyfriend, Justin, comes to ask for her help on behalf of his father, the mayor. Both Justin and his father have always believed in Clare, and now they need her help to solve this crime and settle the town back into their sleepy summer. When she starts getting involved, she realizes the hot new guy in her school is essentially her new "partner" on this investigation, despite his rather large objections and obvious distaste for psychics. This new guy, Gabriel Toscano, is the son of the new detective in town- a man rumored to have been fired from NYPD for a suspicious killing of a man in the line of duty. He is brooding and mysterious. Gabriel may be working with Clare reluctantly, but there is no denying their chemistry!

When the tables turn and it turns out Perry took the girl back to her hotel room the night she was murdered, Clare knows she must do everything and anything to prove Perry is innocent. The problem is, he isn't exactly acting very innocent as he sneaks around and goes missing for long periods of time. Solving this murder is the only thing that can save the town, the summer, and everyone in Clare's life. When the new psychic in town warns Clare and her family to get out of town, Clare ironically discounts her warnings and assumes she is a fraud. What Clare doesn't realize is the new psychic might be right- Clare might be in a lot more danger with this investigation than she realizes. Can she solve the murder before anyone else gets hurt?

This is a fun novel with a sassy main character. Clare is not a girl who sits back and takes what life throws at her. She refuses to let her family fall apart and will do anything she can to solve the murder- even put her own life in danger. She is also strong when it comes to her relationship with the mayor's son. When she finds out he cheated on her, she dumps him immediately. Her pain and hurt are clear, but in the end, she knows she must forgive him. She can't bring herself to be with him, but forgiveness is the only thing that will help her heal. What I really liked about this story was how some people in the town didn't ostracize Clare in her family. The mayor always believed in what they did and sought their help with the murder. It showed a nice sense of trust and acceptance for differences amongst neighbors.

The reading level on this book is fairly simple, but there are some choice phrases and scenarios that might not be appropriate for younger students. It is a fairly brief story, and the plot is fun and suspenseful without being too cheesy or predictable. This combination makes it a good story for low skilled to high skilled teens. I would give this to a wide range of my students. While the cover would probably discourage male readers, the story itself is not overly feminine. This was a strong debut by Harrington, and I am looking forward to the sequel which is due out next year!

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