Un-Forgettable Friday: The Killer’s Cousin by Nancy Werlin
July 9, 2010 in Book Club Possibility, Debate topics, High School Teachers, Journal Writing, Werlin Nancy, Young Adult Novels Tags: Book Club Possibility, Nancy Werlin, The Killer's Cousin, young adult novels
*Young adult, contemporary realistic fiction
*2nd-year senior guy as main character
*Rating: The Killer’s Cousin grabs hold of you from the beginning and keeps you turning pages until you reach the incredible ending. It’s a thriller for teens with an unbelievable antagonist.
Short, short summary: David Bernard Yaffe is an infamous teenager for killing his girlfriend. Does it matter to anyone, including himself, that he was acquitted of the crime? To escape media attention and curious stares, David goes to finish his senior year of high school in Cambridge, Massachusetts where he lives with his Uncle Vic, Aunt Julia, and 11-year-old cousin, Lily. It’s obvious that Aunt Julia doesn’t want David there, and Lily is openly hostile. David is staying in his cousin Kathy’s upstairs apartment. She died there when she was 18 (four years ago). No one–Vic, Julia, or Lily–seem to be over the death; and the family has a lot of emotional issues–especially Lily, who starts to play vicious tricks on David, trying to get him to leave. All the while, David is still trying to deal with the death of Emily and his part in it. David soon realizes that there are secrets all around him. Until he can get his family to face the truth, there will be no peace.
So, what do I do with this book?
1. Throughout the book until towards the end, the reader doesn’t know exactly what happened between David and Emily to cause her death. Teens can use the clues David gives them to try to figure out what happened before he reveals it. They should base their predictions on the clues throughout The Killer’s Cousin. The same is also true for what happened to his cousin, Kathy. They can predict things about her death also based on clues in the novel.
2. A great debate around this book is: what does it mean to be guilty? David struggles with this issue, and so does Emily. Is David still guilty even though he was acquitted of his crime? Should Lily be held responsible for her actions even though she’s a young child? Teens will have many different viewpoints on this issue. You can ask them to write about their opinions first before discussing them.
3. A lot of this book also deals with appearances and images. How much does someone’s appearance affect what people think about him or her? Does this seem to matter to David? Why or why not? David’s appearance doesn’t affect his image, but the fact that he was in the media so much does. Does this affect how he treats or views others?