Book Review: No One Else Can Have You by Kathleen Hale

Small towns are nothing if not friendly. Friendship, Wisconsin (population: 689 688) is no different. Around here, everyone wears a smile. And no one ever locks their doors. Until, that is, high school sweetheart Ruth Fried is found murdered. Strung up like a scarecrow in the middle of a cornfield.

Unfortunately, Friendship’s police are more adept at looking for lost pets than catching killers. So Ruth’s best friend, Kippy Bushman, armed with only her tenacious Midwestern spirit and Ruth’s secret diary (which Ruth’s mother had asked her to read in order to redact any, you know, sex parts), sets out to find the murderer. But in a quiet town like Friendship—where no one is a suspect—anyone could be the killer.

My Rating:  3.5 cupcakes

After seeing so many negative reviews of No One Else Can Have You, I was somewhat afraid to read it. After all, it’s one of the books that I was desperately wanting to get my hands on – though that is partially because of the adorably morbid sweater that makes up the cover.

To say that No One Else Can Have You is weird is a bit of an understatement. In the small town of Friendship, everyone refers to one another by their first and last names, and phrases like “don’t cha know” and the use of “Gah” instead of “God” are commonplace. And then there’s the characters. From Kippy’s father, Dom, who gives his daughter cringe-worthy nicknames like “Pickle” and “Cactus” to Sir Albus, a young girl who believes that she is a British spy, the cast of No One Else Can Have You is certainly quirky. Yet, surprisingly, I found these quirks to be endearing and amusing.

Kippy Bushman, our protagonist who has a penchant for wearing turtleneck sweaters, is just as awkwardly endearing as the rest of the cast. She’s known to speak her mind, no matter how strange her thoughts may be, and tells someone twice that she likes his finger. She takes everything to extremes, and wears a utility belt armed with Ruth’s notebook and a Dictophone because “preparedness is never uncool.” Despite these strange habits, or maybe because of them, Kippy’s voice is certainly compelling, and I found myself rooting for her throughout the entire story.

As a huge fan of Sherlock, I tend to fancy myself an excellent detective when it comes to mystery books. I can usually spot red herrings from a mile away, and I’m rarely surprised when the big reveal comes about. However, when it comes to No One Else Can Have You, the murderer was someone that I never would have expected. Hale certainly kept me on my toes, leading me to suspect almost everyone – including Kippy herself.

There was one issue I had with No One Else Can Have You, however. There were several scenes where mental illness, PTSD, domestic violence, and slut-shaming were used for comedic effect. While I understand that Hale’s writing is filled with satirical, dark humour, some scenes — such as Davey and Kippy pretending to be in an abusive relationship to get information — made me feel rather uncomfortable about their treatment of these subjects.

Overall, No One Else Can Have You is a dark satire that would make an excellent movie. I’m happy to say that I really enjoyed it, however I definitely recommend reading a sample before you decide to go out and purchase it – after all, it has been shown to polarize readers.

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