Tuesday, November 20, 2012

"Killing Britney" by Sean Olin

Britney Johnson used to be a geek at high school, but now she has transformed herself into one of the "Hockey Wives", the girlfriends of the players on the highly successful high school hockey team. She's dating Ricky Piekowski - at least until he is viciously run down by a killer in a red pick-up truck.

This isn't the first time Britney's life has been touched by tragedy. A couple of years earlier, her mother died during a family rafting trip, her body never recovered. Britney went through a really rough period after the death, which seemed to prompt her change from geek to chic.

Adam Saft is a friend of the family, staying with Britney and attending high school with her. He learns from Britney's former friends Bobby and Melissa that Britney isn't all she's cracked up to be. More people begin to die and it looks like Britney might be the final target.

Even though it clocks in at 234 pages, this teen thriller - with slasher undertones - has less depth than a 160-page quickie from R.L. Stine. Just what was the author aiming for with this? Despite being called "Killing Britney", there never really seems to be a discernable threat against her. Sure, some of the people around her are dying, but why? Some of the links between victim and Britney are really tenuous. A couple of characters are identified as disliking Britney, but that's also very undercooked. Both Adam and Bobby, presented as suspects, seem more in love with her than wanting to kill her.

The book decides to remain vague for a large part of the proceedings, seemingly in the hope that you won't guess the highly obvious twist ending. As for the twist ending, all it really does is leave you with a huge pile of unanswered questions.

I also wonder about the "Killing Britney" title. Is it a coincidence the main character's name is spelt the same way as the famous singer Britney Spears? I've heard that "Britney" is an uncommon spelling of the name - usually it's Brittany. Is it also a coincidence that the book's cover has a picture of a girl that vaguely resembles the singer? Were the publishers hoping that Britney Spears fans would see the cover and the title and pick it up over the possibility it was about the singer?

It turns out that Britney killed her own mother with the help of Karl, Melissa's older brother. Britney and Karl then murdered anybody who got too close to the truth. The problems here:

Why did Britney suddenly decide to become one of the popular kids? If anything, it exposed her to more people who could learn her secret. In particular, Ricky!

Why was she acting suicidal after her mother's death? It only made Melissa and Bobby scrutinise her, when the last thing she wanted was any scrutiny!

Who wrote the love letters to Karl? Britney's mother? Or Britney herself? It's brought up, and then never mentioned again, nor explained.

Was there any connection to the couple of deaths mentioned in the early part of the novel?

Did Bobby murder Britney's father? Or did Britney? And if it was Britney, at which point did her father ever get anywhere near to figuring out she killed her mother? If it was Bobby - um....why?

Why did she sleep with Adam?

There's no suspense, no believable plot twists, and no guilty pleasure that you would typically find with a teen thriller. Guess I'm back to hunting down the popular 90s teen thriller again.

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