Review: No One Else Can Have You by Kathleen Hale

Wednesday, December 18, 2013
Title: No One Else Can Have You
Author: Kathleen Hale
Genre: mystery, young adult
Series: N/A
Pages: 384
Published: expected January 7 2014
Source: publishers via edelweiss
Rating: 2/5

Small towns are nothing if not friendly. Friendship, Wisconsin (population: 688) is no different. Around here, everyone wears a smile. And no one ever locks their doors. Until, that is, high school sweetheart Ruth Fried is found murdered. Strung up like a scarecrow in the middle of a cornfield.

Unfortunately, Friendship’s police are more adept at looking for lost pets than catching killers. So Ruth’s best friend, Kippy Bushman, armed with only her tenacious Midwestern spirit and Ruth’s secret diary (which Ruth’s mother had asked her to read in order to redact any, you know, sex parts), sets out to find the murderer. But in a quiet town like Friendship—where no one is a suspect—anyone could be the killer.

When you try to combine Pretty Little Liars and Fargo into a darkly humorous YA satire, you know that's a lot for a debut author, or any author really, to attempt. It was a tough sell from the start and No One Else Can Have You never really made it out of the gate. The thing with writing a good satire is picking the right subject to satirize for your audience. Small town prejudices? Have at it. Run with it. But trivializing horrible issues like PTSD and domestic violence in order to make them "funny" is a big negative and will earn you all kinds of vitriol and it will affect how readers react to your writing.  

No One Else Can Have You has good bones, it really does. The essentials and the ideas are there, they just need some finesse. There was some serious potential for both the story and the characters but the execution fell flat. Unfortunately, the author neglects to fully utilize and develop either her story or her cast and so the end result is a weird, odd, offensive story cobbled from a scattered present-tense first-person narration. As that first person narrator, Kippy initially really does seem like a good, interesting form of quirky --- until she opens her mouth to "investigate" her best friend's death. It's not only Kippy, though -- a wide range of characters from supporting to bit part can and do join her in her various -shaming ways. It speaks loudly to how small towns can be, but victim blaming? Slut shaming? Domestic violence jokes? Using PTSD as a punchline? It's unacceptable.

The humor from No One Else Can Have You is one of the bigger letdowns. As I mentioned before, trivializing important issues does not equal a black comedy or a satire. Hale doesn't seem to understand the difference, nor the subtleties needed and her characters' forced attempts at humor only make things worse. The mystery is a non-starter as well. Not only is it easily predicted, but the entire attempt to figure it out is an exercise of delaying what Kippy could easily figure out in a matter of minutes. This is one of my least favorite plot devices -- keeping the main character ignorant just to stretch out the plot. It just makes Kippy seem silly and dumb in addition to all the other wonderful ways she was portrayed.

Whether or not you like the end result, No One Else Can Have You you have to admit that it certainly tried to do something new and different. And while I wasn't a fan of the novel itself, I can easily say I won't be forgetting it either. I can see and understand why others will enjoy this, readers without my triggers or opinions, and I wish them glad of it. Not every book is for everyone and this just wasn't a story for me.


  1. Ugh, bummer. The cover is fantastic!

  2. I wasn't necessarily drawn to this as other readers were, but I know the overwhelming opinion has been decidedly negative concerning this novel, so I'll be skipping out for sure. From what you've said, this just doesn't sound like my cup of tea. Great review, Jessie!

  3. Well said. There seems to be this trend in YA lately where characters are making fun of serious mental health issues, such as PTSD, to make the book "edgy" and I hate it. I wasn't exactly interested in this novel, but seeing the overwhelmingly negative response, I'm pretty sure I'm going to stay away from it. I think I have many - if not all - of the same triggers as you. It's a shame when a good concept falls victim to bad execution. Fab review!


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