It is always interesting to read the first novel in a series. Sometimes in a good way--others times in a bad way. And sometimes, you split the difference.
Part of the reason for the first novel in a series to be such an interesting read is that it is often the set-up for the entire series. So you end up with hints about future books in the series. And in "Dead is the New Black," Marlene Perez is setting the stage for her entire "Black is" series.
The town of Nightshade, California reminds me of the town that I went to high school in: everyone knew everybody, and you could walk from one end of town to the other in about an hour (if you were taking your time). The difference is that it was less "hell-mouth-ish." Honestly, a person was more likely to die of boredom than get munched on by a thing of the night in the town I spent high school in. Nevertheless, the feel of the town and high school felt real to me, provided that one overlooks the monsters.
With the "Dead is" series being written for a female audience (or I presume that it is a female audience), I did wonder if I would be able to associate with Daisy Giordano, the teenage heroine of the series. Much to my surprise, I was quite in tune with her; I guess that the insecurities that plagued me as a teenager are one that plague all teenagers.
Now, I will admit that there were times that I could not figure out how Daisy came to certain conclusions and decisions. I suspect that this is because this was the first book; occasionally, first books have some rough spots. Personally, as a writer, I find it interesting to study those places that other writers fail in--not that it helps me in the least to do better, it just reminds me that I am not alone with my struggles with the art of story telling.
I have mixed feelings about the ending. On one hand, it feels a little deus ex machina. On the other hand, Perez did sat it up to have it resolve that way. There was another solution, and I am glad that she did not use it.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. And promptly started the next one in the series. Of course, the real test will come when my eleven year-old god-daughter discovers that I have some books in this series. We will see how long it is before she borrows them.
[Full disclosure: The copy of "Dead is the New Black" that I used for this review came from the boxed set "Dead is...in a box" which I won in a Goodreads First Reads drawing. This review also appears on the Goodreads site.]