Wednesday, July 5, 2017


by Tonya Hurley
Recommended Ages: 14+

As a new school year starts at Hawthorne High, Charlotte is determined to cross over from being the invisible girl to fitting in with the popular crowd, and even having a chance to kiss Damen Dylan at the big dance. But just after scoring Damen as her lab partner in first-period physics class, she crosses over in a way she didn't intend, thanks to an imperfectly chewed gummy bear. Now she's stuck in the afterlife, attending Introduction to Dead Ed class with such gruesome classmates as Piccolo Pam, a marching band member who tripped and swallowed her instrument; Rotting Rita, who always has maggots crawling out of her nose; Call Me Kim, whose death proves the link between cell phone use and brain cancer is no myth; and an angry girl named Prue, who is ready to blame Charlotte if the house they all haunt together gets condemned and torn down.

Unfortunately, Charlotte is too caught up in her own, selfish issues to worry about her dead friends and the fate of their home. She hasn't given up on Damen, even if it means stirring up trouble for everyone. She makes a pact with the alpha cheerleader's goth sister, possessing Scarlet's body while Scarlet, in spirit, delightedly explores the other side. But what she hasn't told Scarlet is that she plans to use her body to get Damen to fall in love with her, and (if possible) to enjoy being just a little popular, for a little while. Naturally, mayhem breaks out, including a flood in the gym and a fun haunted house that turns just a little too real. In the end, everything depends on Charlotte getting her ghostly head on straight, and thinking about someone else before herself.

Tim Burtonesque cover art drew me into this book with a promise of satirical, black-comedic ghoulishness. While I wasn't fully satisfied with the book after reading it, that promise went not entirely unkept. I enjoyed some guilty giggles, particularly at some classic film references it would probably take a grown-up well-read in popular culture to appreciate fully. The songs mentioned in the book would make an interesting soundtrack, with plenty of teen goth appeal. On the other hand, each chapter is prefaced by an explanatory blurb that lays out, in general terms, the issue Charlotte has to work through in the next few pages; reading like cards from a deck of pop psychobabble, these blurbs add little the book wouldn't be better off without. There is some legit mystery, suspense, and romance in it, though, and some of the characters show emotional growth. But even in a book that openly acknowledges the shortcomings of its self-absorbed teenaged characters, one that confronts some of them with their need to change, it was hard to sympathize with the brats depicted in this book. They became irritating in large doses, even with tongue in cheek; and in spite of suspense winding up to a tight climax, I was a little let down by how easily their issues were resolved. Perhaps I'm being premature, though; this book has two sequels, Homecoming and Lovesick. So their problems, somehow, must not be altogether over.

Their author, a sometime music publicist, TV writer/producer, and video game creator, has also written a trilogy about modern day urban martyrs, comprising The Blessed, Passionaries, and Hallowed.

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