reviewed by Cara DiCostanzo
Dying to be Her is the second book in Gregg Olsen’s Young Adult series, Empty Coffin. The original books were published in 2012 and have been re-edited with new names.
Olivia Grant has come to Port Gamble, WA, as an exchange student from the UK. When the book opens, Olivia is attending a Halloween party at Brianna Connor’s house. Brianna has the honor of being a member of the richest family in Port Gamble, and her house is a showplace. Unfortunately, the party ends with murder instead of candy. Shortly after, the party is over. Briana discovers someone has stabbed her new BFF to death on her bedroom floor.
Hayley and Taylor Ryan, 16-year-old twins, are introduced to the reader in the first book, Beneath Her Skin. Both girls have mysterious powers and the ability to sense when someone is in trouble, including themselves. They also get visions and jumbled letters that once unscrambled help them solve crimes.
Gregg Olsen has the uncanny ability to create well-rounded and fascinating characters who jump off the page. One example would be Brianna Connor. When we first meet Brianna, she is making out with her boyfriend in front of her house, which is being combed over by cops and detectives after Brianna found Olivia’s body. She is even more annoyed that the police will not clean up the room after they remove the body and that she must stay at a hotel until the house is no longer a crime scene.
Another interesting character in this book is Beth Lee, BFF to the twins and Olivia Grant’s host in Port Gamble. Beth had a fight with Olivia before she left for the party and also becomes a suspect in the murder. She is an outcast at Kingston High and one of the least likely to commit a murder. I loved that the Author brought out a vulnerable side to Beth in this book, which was not obvious in the first book.
There are some side stories in this book that feel a little out of place and maybe don’t get the reader’s full attention as they should. The mystery of the bus accident could be an entire book of itself. This is touched on in the first book and then solved in this book. Though I felt the resolution was confusing and should have been explained a bit better. There were clear holes that were left unwritten and unexplored. One example would be the death of Savannah Osteen, the linguistics professor they introduce us to in the first book.
Gregg Olsen knows how to weave a tale with just a bit of truth to it. His knack of engaging the reader with interesting stories and well-developed characters is truly a gift. As a genuine fan of his books, I hope he continues this series so we can hear more from the teens of Port Gamble.