Skip to main content

The Killer in Me

Review

The Killer in Me

When Nina Barrows begs Warren Witter to drive her six hours to a New York suburb, her one-time best friend doesn't know what he's getting himself into. But even though he has yet to discover the secret of Nina's nightmares --- or, more precisely, her nightly forays into the mind of a serial killer --- Warren obliges. The duo pulls an all-night stakeout, waiting for Nina's phantom killer to strike.
 
But the teens are too late. By the time they plant themselves in front of the victims’ house, the “Thief" has already blasted a hole in the Gustafssons' skulls and slogged their remains through the woods, leaving Nina with nothing but renewed frustration --- and a glimpse of his license plate. Thus begins Nina's (and begrudgingly Warren's) road trip from their Vermont hometown to the merciless New Mexico desert.

“Blurring the superhuman with the insane...Harrison's thriller will tease and entice and entrance you. Plus her prose is tight enough to snap….”

That's how I --- and Warren --- plunged into this psychological thrill ride, certain of only two things: Nina Barrows is no Mary Sue, no Katniss Everdeen-warrior princess. Nina's first, feeble attempt at a mile-run ends in a wheezed declaration of how much she hates PE.
 
But she just might be a serial killer.
 
From Morgan Matson's AMY AND ROGER'S EPIC DETOUR to Margo Rabb's KISSING IN AMERICA to the classic PAPER TOWNS, teen road trip novels crowd bookstore shelves the way mile markers line the interstate. But while Nina and Warren do crash in motel rooms and wolf down pecan pie in vinyl booths, most teen road trips don't climax in a showdown with a serial killer. So thank you, Margot Harrison, for twisting a tired premise into freshness.
 
Nina transcends the girl-who-sees-dead-people stereotype and Warren --- the shy, nerdy, sometimes-drug dealer --- makes for an unexpected love interest. But you don't fly through a hundred pages in an hour because of character development, no matter how unexpected. The heart of THE KILLER IN ME is inarguably, inexorably its suspense. Blurring the superhuman with the insane, night terrors with, well, actual terror, Harrison's thriller will tease and entice and entrance you. Plus her prose is tight enough to snap, with just enough words for a glimmer of atmosphere.
 
Still, there are a few issues with Harrison’s characters. Sure, Warren's flirtation with the drug trade clashes with his nice-guy demeanor. Characters are complex --- I get it --- but no way would Warren hook girls on stimulants just because he wants a new car. And Harrison can exaggerate some of Nina's fears, faking a few thrills in a book bursting with genuine horror.
 
Still, THE KILLER IN ME teems with raw creeping terror and some pretty epic gunslinging. Fusing Henry James' THE TURN OF THE SCREW with the Lone Ranger, Harrison's taut first novel will thrill you, chill you, and leave you clamoring for her second.

Reviewed by Alison S., Teen Board Member on July 20, 2016

The Killer in Me
by Margot Harrison

  • Publication Date: October 9, 2018
  • Genres: Mystery, Romance, Suspense, Thriller
  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
  • ISBN-10: 1484728513
  • ISBN-13: 9781484728512