Lauren Henderson launches a fun multi-book mystery in Kiss Me, Kill Me. In the beginning of the novel, Scarlett Wakefield is no where near the popular social circle in Saint Tabby’s, one of the most upper-crust private school in London. She and her two best friends spend their time on gymnastics, until one afternoon, Scarlett is invited to join the It girls by the fountain. Without hesitation, she leaves her friends behind. Before she knows what hit her, Scarlett is at a party thrown by one of the girls, flirting with her crush Dan, who drops dead in the middle of a kiss they share. No one knows what caused his death, but Scarlett is quickly labeled with the kiss of death and subjected to much ridicule. (While the media cannot reveal her name because she is underage, everyone in her world knows it was her.) To escape, Scarlett leaves London behind and enrolls in the all-girls school her grandmother runs out in the country. While the school does not have gymnastics, she is relieved that the focus is much more academic and no one worries about clothes or boys or parties.
Despite the change in scenery and the fact that no one knows she was the kiss of death girl, Scarlett still feels terrible about Dan’s death. She is shocked when she receives a letter telling her Dane’s death wasn’t her fault. Knowing that someone out there seems to know more about the cause of Dan’s death than they have been willing to say thus far, she decides she must figure out who wrote this note.
While I am not normally a fan of mysteries, I enjoyed this one. Scarlett is an interesting character with a tragic back story that is revealed along the way. I also liked the character of Taylor, she was very entertaining. The ending is good – certain story lines are wrapped up but not enough to make you feel like you don’t need to read the sequel.
One thing I am curious about – another librarian I know is often hesitant to include books set in England in a YA collection, even when they are aimed at a YA audience. She says she thinks that teen readers will not understand all of the references and culture. I disagree with this being true and am interested to hear what others think. While teens may not understand everything right off the bat, readers can usually decipher something based on context. And if they don’t, they have no problems going to Google. How else does a young adult get introduced to other cultures outside of their current physical world? I remember reading books set in other countries as a child/teen and getting it.