The young adult genre is often overlooked by adults and those with cynicism in mind, but those who do ignore it are missing out on some interesting reads. For instance, One of Us is Lying by Karen McManus, which ended up being a lot better than I’d expected despite being excited to read it after seeing all of the good reviews. There’s some good stuff out there, although — like all genres, mediums, etc. — there’s also a lot of crap. It’s no different than anything else; just tailored for younger audiences.
When I was asked to review Four Found Dead by Natalie D. Richards, I looked its premise and summary up before agreeing. I’ve had a lot on my plate, and have been behind on some things, but ended up saying yes because its subject matter sounded so interesting. That’s because we’re talking about a book that takes place in a movie theatre and its adjoining mall; both of which are scheduled to be demolished after this fateful night. The mall itself has been closed for some time, but the movie theatre hung on (until now) for obvious reasons.
Four Found Dead is told through the perspective of an aspiring med student named Jo, who is counting the minutes until her final shift at the local movie theatre concludes. She’s there with what seems to be the place’s entire staff roster, which is made up of several other high schoolers or young adults and a manager who’s described as being an aggro asshole. Needless to say, he’s someone that they cannot wait to get away from and never have to deal with again.
The manager’s name is Clayton, and his personal life makes it so that the cineplex’s final night isn’t without drama.
Shortly after close, Clayton’s wife appears at the windows and bangs until the door is opened. Then, the two of them have an intense conversation, at which time Jo notices that the man is carrying a gun in his waistband. It isn’t long before things go from tense to downright awful, as the lights go out and one of the employees’ bodies is found. It’s said and presumed that Clayton killed her, but why?
As you’ve likely surmised, the group of several sixteen to nineteen year-old employees eventually makes its way out of the theatre and into the mall at large. They’re afraid of Clayton, sense that he wants to hurt them, but don’t know why. Unfortunately for them, though, the mall is in a bad state of repair due to its planned demolition. Those behind the project have also been stupid and blocked all of the fire escapes, exits, etc. so that vagrants don’t get inside and get hurt during demolition. This leaves our group in peril stuck inside the three story mall that they call Riverview Fashionplace, inside the city of Sandusky, Ohio.
The rest of this book is about the teens working together to try to survive in this dark, derelict and dangerous mall, which once played host to parts of their childhoods. All the while, they feel like they’re being stalked by a killer, and are looking for a way out, while dealing with other things that come up. The title gives some of what happens away, and makes me wonder why it was chosen, but yes — several people die.
As a film geek, and someone who spent a lot of time at local movie theatres, I wish more of the story took place in the movie house itself, but I understand why that choice was made. After all, they’re generally only so big and offer limited hiding spots. That said, I found it a tad difficult to grasp the layout of the mall based on its many descriptions, and wish there’d been a map included.
The characters, themselves, aren’t the deepest in all of young adult fiction, but there’s enough depth there to chew on. Thus, you’ll likely end up caring about them and their plight like I did. If not, this won’t be as interesting, or as good, of a read.
Four Found Dead’s writing style also works for both its story and its target audience, and is a pretty easy read. It’s decently written, and — while it has some shortcomings like imperfect pacing –it’s a pretty solid YA effort. I’ve seen others say that the author’s previous books were better, but cannot comment on that myself since I’d never heard of her before I received the review-related email.
Fans of young adult novels have reason to check out Four Found Dead by Natalie D. Richards. While it’s not a great book, per se, it’s a solid read and pretty good genre fair. There’s nothing spectacular to be found within, but it’s definitely above average.
This review is based on an advanced reader’s copy that we were provided.
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