My rating: 4 of 5 stars
First confession; when I picked this book up I thought it was something else. I didn’t read the inner flap, and from the back flap, the cover and the other books that were with it at the time, I thought it was non-fiction.
Was I a little surprised when I started reading and discovered it was a YA novel about a teenager with a dead mom, family troubles, potential romantic entanglements and the struggles of fitting in while being a freak? Yeah.
Was I further surprised when I discovered it to actually be fairly smart, well written, and entertaining? Also yes.
Spookygirl has an interesting narrative set up, with a teenage medium heading into a new school with new living conditions as she resumes living with her widowed father above his mortuary. Thankfully, Dad is at least understanding of her “gifts,” and not above using those gifts to help folks move on or at least find some peace in the afterlife. The mystery of Mom’s death – and Dad’s potential involvement in it – is left appropriately vague, being prodded at in regular intervals. Not so often that you feel the need to say “shut up, already, we get it,” and not so infrequently that you have that “Oh, right, that was a thing that happened” moment. The bulk of the book serves as our heroine getting used to the new situation and picking up the family business so she can attempt to resolve her issues about Mom’s death, and it’s done decently well. It’s a fun little romp, the literary equivalent of a bag of chips: Tasty enough, at least mildly satisfying, not too offensive, but not going to create any earthshattering moments, either.
The book is competent and entertaining and does what it set out to do. If I have any complaints, it’s the giant red herring as regards the school haunting and the too-tidy way it gets rectified, leaving one character in a plot hole somewhere and never referencing her again, and the far-too-shiny-happy ending that ties everything up while leaving room for another volume, but without any real sense of sacrifice. It’s 100% happy ending, and while that may be due to the genre, it felt far too tidy and left me a little sour.
Overall, though, I’d say it’s worth checking out if you’re into teenagers and spooks, and has the advantage of not being too heavy handed with the romantic angle – and our heroine doesn’t end with a boyfriend, so bonus, there – while still remaining reasonably acceptable to its assumed target audience. Worth a read.