Adventures in Funeral Crashing by Milda Harris
Publisher: Self Published
Format: Kindle edition
Guest Post by fabulous, Melissa Baron!
Plot: Every teenager has after school hobbies; sports, reading, music, video games, napping. Kait Lenox likes to crash funerals. Ever since her mother died, she’s found a small measure of comfort in attending funerals and listening to the stories and remembrances of others who’ve lost their lives, and has become something of an expert in the fine art of subtly crashing strangers’ funerals without getting caught. Until the one time she picks the funeral of the sister to the most attractive boy in school to crash, and the cat’s out of the bag. To Kait’s surprise, this turn of events leads to her helping Ethan try and solve what he is convinced was the murder of his sister, as other girls around town continue to die of mysterious drug overdoses. Kait just has to be careful she doesn’t become the next target as she and Ethan try and find the killer…
Review: Guys! I liked this one! Quite a bit, actually. I gobbled it up almost as fast as Kait can suck down a peanut butter banana milkshake. Kait is a really likable girl, with funny inner monologues and this resignation to her lot in high school life as a social pariah, keenly aware of her place in the social caste. Despite, or maybe because of, her mother’s illness and subsequent passing away, Kait just keeps her head down and doesn’t let it get to her, unless her former best friend is there to throw her misfit status in her face. My heart hurt a little for her that she sat alone during lunches; I can unfortunately relate. That doesn’t sound like a big deal, but trust me; it can suck the will to go to school right out of you. Kait finds solace in books, movies, and funeral crashing.
I love how she stumbled upon Ethan; or rather, how he found her indulging in her secret favorite pastime at his own sister’s funeral. Kait has no other choice but to come clean with him, and pounces on the opportunity to help when he confides to her that he thinks his sister was murdered, but the only proof he has is the certainty that his beloved sister was not the type to die of a drug overdose. Kait simultaneously enjoys helping to solve the mystery and all the time she’s able to spend around Ethan, a previously untouchable, gorgeous, popular guy. The crush she has on him started with one simple kindness he gave her mother when she was dying, so I can see where Kait would put him up on this unattainable pedestal in her head. This moment, actually, was something of a missed opportunity that I wish Kait would’ve brought up to Ethan later on; that would’ve been a nice conversation.
But the cool thing about Kait’s expectations is that Ethan doesn’t live up to them at first. He’s still a great, thoughtful guy, but he’s also a grieving mess at times, and lashes out when he’s frustrated. At first I thought, huh – he’s not quite matching up to the portrait of this selfless, sweet volunteer Kait gives us in the beginning, but then I realized that’s the point. He almost trashes the investigation in its infancy, convinced he was wrong and they’re wasting their time, and you can tell even he thinks he might just be using Kait to find out the truth about his sister and their relationship isn’t really one at all; it’s just convenient. Kait sagely picks up on this and wildly fluctuates between accepting that and praying that through all this, Ethan might actually look at her and SEE her. So he’s not perfect, and argues with Kait and disagrees with her, but then he chooses to spend time with her in school and becomes surprisingly ferocious (in the hot way. YOU know) when he feels Kait is putting herself in harm’s way or is in a bad situation. Watching those two getting to know one another (they get to crash a funeral together! Huzzah!) and bounce ideas off each other was a joy. And they do it in the most realistic fashion, in the way actual teenagers would approach solving a mystery like this. Many times they’re stumped and have to reevaluate their plans, and sometimes sheer dumb luck helps them out.
There were just a few things that didn’t jive for me, however. It’s hard to go into it without spoiling the whodunit, so I’ll just say that I felt it wrapped up too quickly, the ending felt a little rushed, and the big showdown of the story fell completely flat for me. There was a scene before that involving Kait and an email that I thought packed in more genuine dread and suspense than the climactic scene did. I know this is chick lit, and maybe this is the diehard horror/thriller fan in me talking, but I was expecting more fear, more of a real sense of danger. The characters didn’t react the way I thought they should have in a situation like that, especially Kait, and the revealed killer almost degenerated to a caricature of a cartoon villain who makes really sloppy, bad decisions.
Beyond that, this was a quick, entertaining read with a love angle set to slow build mode, which I love. It allowed the characters to get to know one another, and the attraction and affection felt like it grew naturally. It gets bonus points for being set in a town not far from where I live, AND for featuring a heroine just as socially awkward as I used to be (still kind of am).
Based on the following criteria:
How much did I like the heroine: 10. Kait is an extremely relatable heroine. She doesn’t have all the answers; she second guesses herself all the time, she’s a little bit boy crazy and subsequently distracted by that at times (in amusing ways), a junk food junkie, and prone to giving in to her temper when she feels she or someone she cares about is being slighted. She stands up for herself, shows surprising empathy for some of her fellow classmates, and displays some pretty savvy detective skills, even when some of her snap decisions aren’t so well thought out. She’s also very funny, and I laughed out loud a number of times at her observations and one-liners.
How much did I like the love interest: 10. Ethan is so adorable. Oh gosh, I really love him. He’s multi-faceted, crazy attractive, and clearly loved his sister very much. It’s amazing what you glean from him based on his behavior towards Kait, even when she’s not seeing it for what it is yet. He’s a pretty smart guy, too, unintentionally funny, and he *volunteers* in his spare time. And a snazzy dresser.
How believable is the plot: 7. Seriously, I only had two hang-ups here, otherwise the plot is great. Everything Ethan and Kait do to try and solve the case is utterly believable; they don’t go to great, ridiculous lengths beyond their means, no Deus ex Machina neatly answers all their questions. They’re frequently stumped, and I liked that it wasn’t easy. But. I had two qualms involving the murderer that I can’t talk about much without giving the mystery away, so all I’ll say is that I find it hard to believe that forensics would not have done an autopsy to determine cause of death (they kind of have to), and I found the grand finale a little unbelievable.
How much did I like the writing style/editing/etc: 6. Loved Kait’s voice. Little repetitive with a few words and phrases, but entertaining. There are some grammar issues and typos here and there (break instead of brake, for instance), and there’s a big issue with comma splicing. It’s all over the place, and it actually kind of distracted me at times. Instead of completing a sentence before the dialogue starts, a comma is put in place of the period, creating a run-on sentence. It would’ve work if a conjunction had been used to connect the two sentences, but as they are, they really needed to be two complete sentences and not joined by the comma splices. Commas are a wee bit abused here and there.
How much did I want to keep reading: 10. I really loved the dynamic between Kait and Ethan, and I know I’ve got a good thing in my hands when I can overlook certain problems and still really enjoy the story. I was genuinely interested to see how they were going to solve this, and it was also a joy to watch their relationship develop.
Final Score: 8.6/10
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