Still Photo by Kim Harnes

Still Photo by Kim Harnes
Publisher: Evernight Teen
Genre: Young Adult, Suspense/Mystery, Contemporary
Length: Full Length (188 pages)
Age Recommendation: 14+
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Jess Waterford’s mother is evil. Since she took off seven years ago—just days after Jess’s ninth birthday—without so much as a wave goodbye, Jess has always wondered what happened to her. And despite the end of her mother’s mental and physical abuse, the memories and the scars still remain. Jess conceals the hurt within by practicing her photography, and by spending as much time as her dad will allow with her baseball star boyfriend, Brody Campbell.

Determined to make use of her new camera, Jess dives into photographing everything in sight. But periodically the resulting prints are flawed, ever so slightly: a smudge on a tree trunk; a blemish in the bus window. These imperfections are not as random as they may seem, however, and Brody and Jess soon discover together that each of these pictures combine to form another image—the grisly image of a murder scene, with Jess’s mother as the victim.

As the new photograph takes shape, Jess’s desire to complete it consumes her, and Brody’s health begins to deteriorate. Torn between her quest to reveal her mother’s killer and her continued worry over Brody’s failing health, Jess finally finds the last piece to the puzzle, and the answer sends her world spiraling into depths from which she may never recover.

Some people walk around with a word on the tip of their tongue. Jess is plagued by a photograph of a murder. Worse yet, she doesn’t have enough information to figure out what happened and has no idea where to find the rest of pieces to the puzzle.

The character development in this book is quite interesting. My first impression of Jess was that her life was almost too perfect. While her childhood was difficult to say the least, she’s sailed into her high school years with a loving boyfriend and a part-time job that also happens to be her passion in life. I had similar thoughts about her boyfriend and father, but what surprised me the most about all three characters was how Ms. Harnes gradually reveals more about their personalities without ever making this reader feel like she’d been holding something back from me.

There were several clues that never quite made sense to me. Some of them felt a little out of place due to certain cultural shifts that have taken place in the last generation or so. It’s difficult to discuss the specific phenomenon that I found confusing without giving away spoilers, but certain attitudes and societal mores were odd. The pacing in this book was so strong that a little time could have been spared to explain why the expectations of these characters are out of sync with what I’d generally expect from individuals living in a contemporary setting.

With that being said, figuring out what was going on with the smudged photographs was a thrill. The mystery elements of this tale are exceptionally strong. The number of hints were appropriate for a novel of this length. While I would have preferred to see the biggest ones appear a little more quickly, I was impressed by how many plot twists I never saw coming. This was my first introduction to Ms. Harnes work, and I’m looking forward to seeing if I can figure out her next mystery a bit faster.

Still Photo blends the young adult and mystery genres together seamlessly. This is a good choice for anyone who enjoys dipping their toes into more than one category of story when they read.

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