Customer Reviews: The Wedding Gift
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First Line: Well, if I didn't want to cry, I guess I would be laughing.

High school senior Leeann Worthier is a girl from the poor side of town who's learned to trade on her good looks to get the things she wants. One of the things she wants is a life on Easy Street, which she obtains by marrying the rich boy in town after graduation.

As a wedding gift, Leann's new in-laws give the couple the Willets House. On the surface, being given a mansion to live in sounds like a good deal, but the Willets House has a history. You see, one day about twenty years ago, Robina Willets killed her husband, her five children... and then committed suicide in that very house. A few years later, two boys dared each other to go in the house. One of the boys died-- Leeann's brother.

Leeann's not crazy about moving into the house, but it is beautiful, and it does have a nice big swimming pool.... It's not until Leeann learns that she and her new husband are living with a very unhappy and very dangerous spirit that Leeann becomes afraid.

Most readers are going to know within the first few pages whether or not they're going to like the book. Leeann tells her own story, and if you like her, you're going to like the book. McKenna nailed Leeann's character. In many ways, she's a typical teenage girl, obsessed with her looks, her clothes, and boys. Her father likes to drink, so the family's never had much, and Leeann learned at an early age that folks are usually quite nice to pretty girls. In turns she's ignorant, hateful, devious, laugh-out-loud funny, and has an honesty about herself that ultimately won me over.

Another element of the book that the author gets just right is what I call the Creep Factor. I don't scare easily, but the ghost in the Willets House had my flesh crawling and had me listening for faint, unusual noises in the house as I read. What's even better, readers learn that the ghost's story is actually heartbreaking, so there's a fundamental emotional shift from fright and repulsion to understanding and compassion.

A feisty, flawed narrator who's not afraid to speak her mind. A downright scary ghost worthy of compassion. And a big surprise when the identity of the person who caused it all is revealed. Leeann may turn some folks away at the door, but for those who are won over by her sass and honesty, there are genuine chills and thrills to follow.
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on December 24, 2011
I know that I am in the minority here, but I just could not get into this story. The main character, Leann, is 17 but acts more like 14. She just seems too immature and slutty for me to care about. She agrees to date George (10 years her senior, unattractive but very rich). On their first date, he takes her to Neiman Marcus, buys her over $30,000 of clothes and shoes so she sleeps with him. They proceed to keep having sex (and he gives her gifts each time) until she gets pregnant (this is NOT a spoiler as you find this out almost immediately in the book!). Fairly quickly after their wedding, she has sex with another man. Her true love, Donny, up and married a women he had just met.. and when things are revealed about him, I couldn't stand him much either. George was written more as a pathetic character - although, he was a 26 or 27 year old man having sex with a 17 year old (statutory rape!). Her dad hates George's family and has for years and years. But somehow the dad flips around and becomes friendly with George and starts drinking with George because George agreed to marry his pregnant 17-year old daughter.

Besides the unlikeable characters, the writing style was not to my taste. The book is written in first person from Leann's point of view but it tries too hard to be "folksy". Here is a sample that is pretty representative (grammatical errors and all): Well to be strictly honest, I had mixed feelings about what he had said. I did like the presents, and sure, hearing that this perfect coat wasn't my "big" gift got me real excited too, because by then I knew enough about the costs of fancy clothes to know it might be ten thousand dollars just for the coat alone. And shoot yes, I liked hearing that I looked like an angel and nice compliments of that sort, but I strictly did not like being told what color to wear all the time." (and certain phrases like "strictly honest" were used numerous times throughout the book).

I ended up giving up about 50% into the book as I just couldn't make myself read any more of it. I did give the 2 stars as I thought the concept of the haunted house was interesting and I liked the "newspaper" excerpts that were at the start of the story.
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on February 6, 2012
"To be strictly honest," you will likely know within the first couple of chapters if you will enjoy this book or hate it. It's written from the POV of an eighteen-year-old Oklahoma beauty queen. She's vain and self-centered and frequently demonstrates the intelligence of a box of hair (bleached hair, in this case). You will either find this okay or you will hate it. If you hate it, you should just stop reading. There will be no relief from Leann's voice during this book except for a brief period where her friend Jessie is presenting a lengthy account of something she read. And Jessie isn't much different (she's never heard of Rhode Island, for example).

If you need a book where you like the main character, you should probably keep looking. Leann isn't very likable.

And in some ways, this story isn't even all that realistic (even within the genre of ghost stories). I'm not from Oklahoma, but I'm from Arkansas and I kept having the sneaking suspicion while reading it that the author didn't really know from Southern culture except what she'd seen on television. The tiny parts of the book written in the style of newspaper articles are cringe-inducing - the articles feel like junior high level reporting. Some details felt awfully odd (why would a family where a young man could spend almost $500,000 on an engagement ring even be living in that town - why wouldn't they just be running things from Dallas or some other major city?). The major flaw of the book (in my opinion) is the decision to present the tale as Leann's journal. It is simply unbelievable that a young woman so lacking in critical thought could write well enough to set this tale down. Additionally, it made the few elements of foreshadowing confusing - if she is writing this around the time it is happening, why is there foreshadowing? If she is writing it all after-the-fact, then the focus of the story just doesn't make much sense. The author would have been much better served just to have Leann present the tale without the conceit of the journal.

You're probably thinking, "Is this really a four star review?" Yes - the book is just that enjoyable. If you don't need to like your protagonists, Leann is remarkably engaging. And I don't need to like her to want to spend a book hearing about her and what happened to her. The story is interesting. While the final resolution of the plot wasn't a surprise, getting there took a lot of twists and turns and none of them happened in exactly the way that I expected. While occasionally a hamhanded bit of extra "color" would jar me out of the story (We get it - Jessie doesn't understand how a Yankee woman can keep a man, she doesn't have to tell us two dozen times), I read this in a single day because, while I was reading it, there really wasn't anything I wanted to do but finish the story. That's not all that common. With a few changes, this could have been an excellent book. As it is, it misses the mark - but not by all that much.
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on August 16, 2012
I came across Kathleen McKenna's book, The Wedding Gift, when reading a bloggers interview of her. At first, it was her responses that attracted me to her and wanting to connect, not the storyline. After writing to her and reading some of the write-ups, I became curious about how such an upbeat person could write a ghost story, intrigued curiosity got the better of me and I bought her book, and to my surprise enjoyed it. Surprised because this is not a genre I'm driven to nor have I been interested in, in the past but the old adage holds that a good story is a good story, no matter the genre. As I began reading , it held my attention and I wanted to read more until about half way into it, I didn't want to put it down, wanting to know what was going to happen to Leann, the protagonist, and her relationships with her husband, her in-laws, and male obsession. The writing was well done and did not distract from the storyline, good narrative and dialogue, with interesting characters that interacted age appropriately and in ways that moved the story along. The sensationalized parts were gory but not overdone. McKenna's, writing and development of flawed characters was exceedingly well done, especially as a sub-character was revealed in the ghost, Robina Willets. The ending could be considered predictable , but how many variations of a good story are there, and if we enjoy the read, so what. And, I did enjoy the read.
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on January 4, 2013
I absolutely enjoyed Kathleen McKenna's The Wedding Gift, from the superb tongue-in-cheek writing, to the over-the-top characters and the spellbinding suspense. Scanning through the reviews I'm surprised about the like-dislike discussion concerning the main character Leeann Worthier Willets. IMHO the beauty-queen teenager is not supposed to be liked, she's just very real in her annoying, childish, stupid 'designer make-up'. I liked her for her irritating realness and - of course- she would never enter my list of possible BBF but why should she? Seeing her make one doomed decision after the other gave spice to the book.

What absolutely thrilled me in The Wedding Gift was the consistent high-quality of the prose. McKenna is flawless in her 'southern drawl' and - as a fellow writer - I can so much enjoy a writing style I would never be able to master myself. Especially the jargon-laded dialogues between Leeann and her friend Jessie are priceless jewels language-wise.

Writing a book in first person, present tense and as a diary is always a risk for a writer and certainly a big challenge. The reader could easily get bored by the static POV it is bound to create. The fact McKenna has been able to avoid that pitfall by creating a lively, wide-scoped book proves her command of both material and story telling.

Another merit of the book is its pace. Mrs McKenna knows how to tell a good story and where to speed up and where to give details. In her capable hands I knew I could just sit back and enjoy the incredible, impossible, hilarious ride I was on. No need to skip pages or reread incomprehensible passages. The story stands as a house.

The suspense part of the book - the ghost story - was haunting and frightening and made me grip my chair at times. I was glad these 'bloody' passages alternated with funny sketches and a bit of romance.

All-in-all a book I would recommend to everyone. Thank you Kathleen McKenna for writing it and I look forward to reading your other books.
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on December 26, 2011
I don't usually abandon books once begun, but I did consider doing just that about 10 to 20 pages in. With Leann, the main character and narrator, being barely over the age of consent and even closer to the threshold of literacy I thought there was no way I could take a full book full of her hick chatter. I didn't give up though and before much longer I was totally hooked on the 2004 Miss Corn Maiden and her crew.

I have to admit that the twist at the end wasn't too difficult to figure out, but the characters were so well developed that I had no problem looking past this and just enjoying them. Leann is a spoiled little princess with a heart of gold and just enough brains to know when to shut up and listen--usually. Her best friend Jess is just the type of butt kicking, loyal to the end friend we all need in our lives. George, Leann's parents, Donny, and the rest are drawn in such a way to make them real, more than just filler in a story but people who help move the story forward.

This was a book I enjoyed, not the greatest book ever read, but more than good enough to entertain. I'd pick it up and read it again at some point just for the smiles it gave me---well in between the brutal killings! (just realized how weird that is, but true!)
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on January 20, 2013
I enjoyed reading this book so much that I reread it within days of finishing it the first time! While the "horror" part of the book was, indeed, horrible, Leeann, the girl who narrates the story was an absolute hoot. Through no fault of her own (after all, how can "the prettiest girl ever born in Oklahoma" be blamed for falling in love, then out of love, then in..., well you get it) Leeann ends up in one terrifying dilemma after another.

The Wedding Gift is one of my very favorite books. It should appeal to everyone who loves a good horror story, as well as everyone who enjoys a good laugh. I can't recommend it enough.
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on December 4, 2012
I'm always up for a good ghost story, and this book delivers. I was unsure how good this book would be when I started reading, but it turned out to be worth sticking with it. I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys books about the paranormal, with a mix of a love story, and of course some drama.
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on January 8, 2012
Review: The Wedding Gift by Kathleen McKenna
The story just flows really well. I was definately drawn into the story. I can see why some reviews I have read like Leeann and others don't. Me I am mixed. Leeann you want things to work out for her but she is selfish. full of pride and I don't like her morals at all. But she has something that draws me
to her. She is very young in some ways and very grown up in different ways.
George is too grown up at 26 to be going after a 17 year old giving her drinks, cocaine,sex and expensive presents. Personally don't have respect for him at all. Plus he is getting everything he wants and no responsiblity. Mama's boy.
Jessie is tough on the outside but is a loyal friend. She has had a hard life.
Most of the characters drink too much and do drugs.
But the story is well written and draws you into Leeann life and all those around her. The story is told in her voice as she is writing it down in journal and you see how she gets caught off guard by George and his riches. Then after a while the horror of the story just glides into place little by little.
Its a good book to read just don't read too late at night if you have a good imangination. I was given this ebook to read in exchange of honest review by Netgalley.
10/19/2011 PUB Bell Bridge Books
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on April 18, 2012
I found in the end that I was very surprised by this book. In the beginning the main characters are not particularly likable and I wasn't sure if I was invested enough in them to finish reading but I'm glad I did. I loved the humor (sort of dark) and the plot kept me guessing. Parts of it were sad too which I wasn't expecting, I think it's what helped humanize some of the characters for me. I'm not sure if this author has written anything else but I'd be interested in reading more from her.
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