Book Review: Envy

Envy (Empty Coffin #1)
Published By: Splinter
Publication Date: August 2011
Page Count: 285
Source: Purchased by Reviewer
Audience: Young Adult - Thriller

I saw this book when it first came out, but didn't really pay much attention to it. The cover caused me to stop and pause, but then I'd move on to something else to purchase. I recently moved back to the South after a two year stay in Washington State. During some of my exploring in the Pacific Northwest, I stumbled upon the coolest little town by accident. I was driving home from the Olympic Peninsula last December and decided to take the Kingston ferry home instead of going my usual route. This path led me through the historic town of Port Gamble. I instantly fell in love with the town and its historic homes. I couldn't wait to visit when I had more time. After falling in love with the town, I noticed this book again, and was shocked to see it was set in Port Gamble. I had to read it. It was one of the best decisions I have ever made. 

Envy not only has a strong sense of setting, but I found that I really enjoyed Gregg Olsen's writing as well. Olsen writes in compelling, visual prose as he paints portraits of crime scenes and every day life with his words. He also is able to create a realistic portrayal of life in the Pacific Northwest.  "No one loves the rain in Port Gamble, but residents live there in spite of it. They refuse to let it stop them from doing what they need to do" (pg. 103). One of the things the region is most famous for is the rain which makes several appearances throughout the novel. This helps set the creepy mood of the story. I must admit I freaked myself out quite a few times reading this one late at night in an empty house.

Envy truly is something special. It combines elements of a mystery and the paranormal in a seamless way that keeps you flipping the pages. I finished this one quickly because I couldn't put it down for long. If we had not been in the middle of our cross country move, I probably would have devoured this novel in one sitting. The plot is fast paced and littered with clues. There were so many twists that I didn't see coming, but looking back I can see where Olsen alluded to things along the way. I also really enjoyed learning more about Port Gamble and Kitsap County as I read.

The book begins when Port Gamble teen, Katelyn, is found dead in her bathtub after being electrocuted by a mini espresso maker. People in the Pacific Northwest take their coffee very seriously so I was amused that the object that caused her death was related to the highly sought after bean. Olsen didn't let me down when he made plenty of comments tying this to the region. One character even mentions, "Some snarky blogger is going to say this is proof that coffee isn't good for you" (pg. 9). While another comments, "And write a headline like 'PORT GAMBLE GIRL MEETS BITTER END" (pg. 9). It was nice to see Olsen offset some serious tension and depressing moments with a little humor. I saw my own coping with grief reflected in those moments. I find its always better to laugh than cry.

Furthermore, the book calls attention to online bullying which is a topic I feel needs a lot of notice. There are so many teens today who are being bullied online and others who think that this is okay. The internet allows us to be anonymous, but so many of the things that are said and done in the virtual world can have horrible, lingering consequences outside of the computer as well. 

One of the most intriguing elements is the "gift" of twins, Taylor and Hayley. While I learned a good deal about them and what they can do in this book, I feel that there is still a lot left to learn about these girls. Their story is far from over. I also just really enjoyed these characters. The girls are the same in many ways, but each has her own distinct personality. I gravitated more towards Hayley (but don't tell Taylor that) because she was the bookworm and made sure to analyze every detail as they tried to piece together what was happening in their town. I also enjoyed watching the conflict that arose between the girls where Colton was concerned. Its not a love triangle by any means, thank goodness, but it did create a bit of tension. 

Another one of my favorite elements is the Empty Coffin lore. You'll have to read this one to find out about that, but I am inspired to do more research.

While I loved this one, I did have a couple of complaints. First, there was quite a bit of texting and IM'ing in this one which is really relevant to modern society, but it required a good bit of deciphering and rereading for my adult brain. Sadly, I am sure kids really do write like that. I was annoyed by it, but that is totally a personal preference and probably won't bother others. Second, I found that at times the plot bounced around too much. I would just be getting settled with one character and then I would be thrust into the mind of another or into a totally new context. I enjoyed the fast pace for the most part, but there were some moments where I wanted things to slow down so I could linger in certain places.

One Last Gripe: I want to know more about what was going on with Moira. I don't feel like that was resolved so I'm hoping to find out more about the situation in book two.

My Favorite Thing About This Book: The setting and local history

First Sentence: Water gushed out of the corroded faucet into the chipped, porcelain tub, pooling at the bottom with a few tangled strands of long, brown hair.

Favorite Character: Hayley

Least Favorite Character: Mindee

Crime lives--and dies--in the deceptively picture-perfect town of Port Gamble (aka “Empty Coffin”), Washington. Evil lurks and strange things happen--and 15-year-olds Hayley and Taylor Ryan secretly use their wits and their telepathic “twin-sense” to uncover the truth about the town's victims and culprits. 

Envy, the series debut, involves the mysterious death of the twins' old friend, Katelyn. Was it murder? Suicide? An accident? Hayley and Taylor are determined to find out--and as they investigate, they stumble upon a dark truth that is far more disturbing than they ever could have imagined.
Based on the shocking true crime about cyber-bullying, Envy will take you to the edge--and push you right over.


  1. What a good review! The pictures just take it a step above, that is so cool that you could combine the two! I've heard about this book but wasn't sure about whether or not I wanted to read it, but you've definitely piqued my interest more. Did you take the trip through Port Gamble, and take the pictures, BEFORE you read the book, or after? Because if it was before... then that sure is wild that you would have gotten pictures of all the important places in the book without even knowing it!! Or did you somehow know that the house you took a picture of was actually the house of the twins? Anyway, it's all just a really cool story - thanks for sharing!! (the church is absolutely stunning... sooo very different from the churches that we have here down South!)

    1. Thank you so much for your comments. I had a lot of fun writing this review. I actually fell in love with the town first and took a ton of pictures. I didn't read the book until after we had already moved back to Georgia so it was a lot of fun sorting through my pictures to find locations from the book. I was fascinated by the twins home because its the oldest continually lived in house in the state of Washington. That is also mentioned in the book so I knew exactly which house to keep in my head.

      I agree that the church is beautiful. The picture doesn't even begin to do it justice.

      If you ever have a chance to get out to Port Gamble, I highly recommend it. It's such a neat little town and now that I have this book in mind that would make the trip that much more fascinating. I am happy to be back home in the South, but I will miss being able to get in the car and drive over to Port Gamble and other gorgeous locales in Washington.

  2. What a great review, Andrea! This book sounds amazing. I can't wait to read it. Thanks for posting those awesome photos of Port Gamble. It looks like such an interesting and atmospheric town. It definitely makes me want to take a trip up there sometime!

    1. I'd love to hear your thoughts on the book after you read it. You should make a trip to Port Gamble! I think you'd really enjoy it.


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