It’s Ella’s senior year of high school and she and her best friend Linds plan to make it the best year ever. At Brock Cochran’s end of summer pool party, the girls vow to have as much fun as possible before they head off to different colleges next fall. But when Ella is mysteriously attacked on her way home from the party, everything changes. Ella’s carefree senior year plans disintegrate as she finds herself at the center of an attempted murder investigation.
Ella tries to move on, but her attacker isn’t done yet. He shows himself in the form of horrifying signs and symbols: a clown mask strewn on her bed, a dead bird in her backpack, a shadow moving past her window in the night. And as the weeks pass, it turns out that Ella isn’t the only one being tormented.
With the help of an old flame, Jensen Carver, and her friends and family, Ella tries to attain some sense of normalcy, but she can’t seem to shake the feeling that there’s a dark pattern hidden in the killer’s every move. Suddenly, even those in her innermost circle seem suspicious. In her seemingly safe West Virginia town, Ella starts to wonder who she can trust.
As we all know, because I have mentioned it multiple times this year, my ultimate goal outside of my Reading Challenge is to read every single book that Jennifer L. Armentrout has written and since Halloween just passed, this book was perfect not only for my goal but for the time of year. There was honestly so much that I loved about this book that it’s a bit hard for me to actually find things to complain about. Sure, it wasn’t perfect, since it’s almost impossible to achieve such a status, but it exceeded my expectations, that’s for sure. And, of course, it had that special JLA magic fairy dust woven into it so if you’re a fan of her, like me, then you’ll probably love it as much as I did.
- Typically when I pick up a JLA book, it’s either going to be one of two things: a paranormal filled with twists or a sweet, romantic contemporary. This one, however, felt like the perfect combination of both. It had that twist and suspense that all good thrillers need with the balancing act of a romance that really helped to make this story more well-rounded. It was like the romance came into play when the mystery and all of the murder got too heavy and then the thrill would come back to counter the romance when that was getting too “sappy.” One thing I’ve always noted about JLA is how great she is with balancing her stories (or at least, most of the time because I remember one book where the balance was missing) and to me, it helps to keep the reader happy. You’re able to dip your toes into different areas and genres but still be able to be fully immersed in the story at hand. This was one of those stories where it wouldn’t have been the same without either component and it’s a reason why I enjoyed it so much.
- JLA had noted in the notes how this was a Scream-inspired story and even though I’ve never seen that movie I could see how she still hit the same theme or idea, more or less, but still managed to have some of her own twists on it. I liked how the killer ended up having a pattern and seemingly common factor between all of the victims and it made it easier for the killer to justify their actions and for it to actually make sense, in my opinion. I understand the thrill of having some killers do everything at random because it leaves the protagonist, and the reader, constantly guessing but there’s nothing better than a good ol’ pattern like this one. Keeping the killer’s identity hidden behind the clown mask was clever because it left the impression that it really could be anyone and because clowns are actually terrifying. I liked the bit of psychological warfare going on with the killer and Ella and how he would leave “clues” for her and around the school to rattle everyone, such as the cardinals and the mask itself. But the biggest twist, and the thing that truly made this book a 4 star read for me, was revealing who the killer was. I had essentially figured it out about halfway through so getting that validation was great but then JLA decided to throw a curveball and put another twist on top of that one. I know I say how I “screamed” at a twist, but I didn’t physically do it, but I literally screamed this time around. I couldn’t believe what JLA did with the big reveal and how it all went down. It honestly made this thriller stand out more than ones I’ve read in the past and it made me wish she wrote more thrillers because it was honestly such a great twist, which is something I’ve been craving for a long time.
- It’s amazing how this book was originally written on Wattpad because it was actually so well done. Even in her author’s note, JLA noted how this was more of a “for fun” story and it was something that wouldn’t go through copyedits and proofreading and therefore wouldn’t have the structure her books typically do. But in my opinion, I didn’t notice anything too different. Sure, there were some spelling and grammatical errors here and there but there was’t anything that I felt needed to be actually edited. Part of me wonders if an editor would make her scrap the ending if it went through the whole process and that would be the worst thing that could happen to it. I just wish that this book really was formally published because I thought it was SO much better than her other thriller, Don’t Look Back, which I also enjoyed. But this was better.
- I think my one tick about this book was how Ella and Jensen proclaimed their love for each other maybe a month in a half into formally dating but I think it’s just a pre-existing pet peeve of mine. I know I can rationalize their love for one another since they’ve been best friends more or less their entire life and there’s always been something more between them. It had a slight vibe of instalove but there was also a good second chance romance trope going on which kind of made the former easy to overlook or ignore completely.
THE BOTTOM LINE
- This is clearly a must-read for anyone who is a JLA fan. But I think it can also be a must-read for anyone who likes YA and enjoys a good thriller once in a while. It’s got all the necessary twists and turns a thriller needs but also a nice balance of a sweet romance that makes for the perfect read. And if you’re not afraid of clowns before reading this book, well, you will now.
BONUS: how this book made me feel in a GIF
ABOUT THE BOOK
Title: The Dead List
Author: Jennifer L. Armentrout
Release Date: April 15, 2015
Pages: 372 (eBook)
Until next time,
What did you think of the book? Leave a comment below!