Note: This October (and probably November) I’m reviewing scary novels from Book Riot’s list of Horror YA from Women Authors. For more Halloween reading suggestions, click the link!
What it’s about: Teenage ghost hunters, magical bloodlines that give the protagonists both special powers and terrible burdens, and a love interest who also happens to be a deadly monster. You know, the usual stuff you find on the YA shelves.
Praise: This story opens with an inner monologue from a teenage ghost hunter on the prowl, and could easily have come across as a formulaic Supernatural copy. Instead, Cas quickly came to feel like a real person to me. The same thing happened with all the characters. It wasn’t really unique in any way that I can quantify, at least not without spoilers, but it felt like it’s own thing.
The pacing was also stellar. I worried at the beginning of this that there wasn’t enough story to flesh out a whole novel, and that I had pages of filler ahead of me. But man, the story wasn’t going the direction I expected at all. It was exciting.
The supporting cast was fantastic, especially Anna herself. It’s hard to make the same person genuinely terrifying and deeply sympathetic. With Anna, Kendare Blake completely succeeded. She also makes her cast click together perfectly naturally. I’ve read so many books where the author says, “this character and that character will become best friends, take my word for it,” but it never really feels organic. I just know the characters wouldn’t have become friends if the author hadn’t decided to make it so.
Plus, there’s a mother/son relationship that actually feels like, well, a mother/son relationship. Why is that so hard? Why are most parents of protagonists either absent, evil, stereotypes or dead? All you need for realism is love and intimate understanding that doesn’t preclude mistakes and miscommunication, plus a tension between their mutual desire for the son’s independence and mutual desire for anything but.
Okay, I can see why not everybody goes for that. Anyway, in this book there is all of that and it works so well.
Criticism: Narratively, I can’t think of a single thing to complain about. This book was completely engaging. On a social justice note, though, it did bother me that a scary ghost is literally the only POC in the entire book. Any of the protagonists could have been POC with no significant changes, or the ghost could simply have been white as well. Again, still enjoyed the book, and it’s the only problem I can think of, but it would have been so easy to avoid.
Recommended? Oh good lord yes