Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Ghost and the Goth and Queen of the Dead by Stacey Kade

I picked up the first book in this new YA series, The Ghost and the Goth, despite its terrible cover. The sequel, Queen of the Dead, has an even worse cover. Seriously, how stupid does the guy in that second cover look? Pretty damn stupid. And not anything like Will in the books.

But anyway, the books are good. High school senior Will Killian can see and hear ghosts, a 'gift' his father also had. Ghosts are frantic to talk to the living and get their help, pestering and demanding and sometimes attacking ghost-talkers. Will's father ended up killing himself three years before, in part due to the pressure. Will himself has been labeled schizophrenic. He can block out the ghosts and pretend he can't hear them if he listens to music. But when he crosses the school principal at the wrong time and gets his MP3 player confiscated, he's vulnerable to attack from the school's many ghosts.

Enter Will's classmate Alona Dare--the late Alona Dare. A few days ago she was hit by a bus while skipping school. She's not sure why she's still hanging around as a ghost, but she knows she needs Will's help--even if he is the kind of guy she'd never even have looked at while she was alive.

The books are told from alternating viewpoints, a chapter from Alona followed by a chapter from Will. It works, mostly because their voices are so distinct. Alona is fierce and cool and determined to get her way. Will just wants to keep his head down so he can graduate in a few short weeks and move somewhere more or less deserted.

The mysteries surrounding both characters kept me riveted, and the tension mounts beautifully. The pacing in the first book is just about perfect. I literally could not put the book down, and when I did I kept thinking about it. Despite the light tone and often funny writing, the book tackles some serious issues. Alona's mother drinks heavily, and Will is still dealing with his father's suicide. But it's the interaction between the two that I just loved.

I won't tell much about the second book's plot, since I don't want to spoil anything. I will say that I was disappointed about halfway through, when the plot went off the rails and nearly fell apart. I still enjoyed the second book, but not nearly as much as the first. Without going into details, there's something that I firmly expected to happen in the first book; I was really glad when it didn't, because it was just too obvious and lame. But it happened in the second book after all, pushing the plot off track and taking over when I'd been enjoying reading about Will discovering another ghost-talker and how she deals with ghosts.

I also felt that the second book was just a set-up for the third. Which I wish were already available, frankly. This is a fresh and breezy take on the YA ghost story books that are everywhere lately (and how I do love this subgenre). Despite the weaknesses in Queen of the Dead, it's still much better than a lot of ghost stories available right now.

B&N links:
The Ghost and the Goth
Queen of the Dead

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