Title:Deadgirl: Ghostlight [on Amazon | on Goodreads] Series:Deadgirl (2nd of 4 books) Author:B.C. Johnson [Site | Goodreads] Genres:Afterlife, Supernatural, Urban Fantasy, Contemporary Year:2016 Age:12+ Stars:5/5 Pros:Main lead gets you hooked. Story has something in it for everyone: pain and fun, epic and normalcy (um, not so much), dating and acting, growing up and staying alive (sort of). Cons:Some teen drama/angst. Almost-love-triangle with an additional complication. Pop culture references galore (some of them slightly out of the characters' reach IMO). WARNING!Gang violence and almost rape. Teen sex (nothing overly graphic, and protection is used). Will appeal to:Those who like a determined, yet complex protagonist who can sneak into their heart, coupled with a great ensemble cast. Those who like adrenaline reads. Those who are into theater. Those who don't mind a small dose of romance. Those who don't mind a huge dose of wisecracks.
Blurb:Transformed into a “phantom” by her own titanic will to live, Lucy must feed on the essence, memories, and emotions of others to keep herself solid. After defeating her Grim Reaper and learning that she could survive without hurting people, Lucy thought the madness was finally over. Her cravings for essence under control, Lucy tries to live a normal life. Apparently you have to be alive for that to work, though, as Lucy learns that one of her friends is more than she appears. She insists that Lucy, with her ghostly abilities and tentative immortality, can join her in the fight to help those in need. Thrust into the role of teenage savior, Lucy Day finds herself battling a pack of voyeuristic serial killers, a mysterious and deadly wraith, and the idea that she might actually have to start dating again sometime this century. (Amazon)
Review:First off...DISCLAIMER: I received this novel from Curiosity Quills in exchange for an honest review. And the author being B.C. Johnson, you all know I've been campaigning for his first Deadgirl book with all my might since 2012, when the original version came out. Also, B.C. Johnson and me have stayed in touch, if sporadically, for the whole time. I'm not what you would call a friend of his though, only a fan of his work. And an unbiased one :). As usual, this review is the love child of my penchant for quirky, uniquely worded books and B.C. Johnson's ability to deliver them. Here goes...
I might as well get it off my chest: I'm still partial to Book 1, and probably always will. It was fresh, unexpected and exciting. It was happily void of the usual teen drama (Lucy's tentative romance with Zach hardly qualified as such) and full of powerful imagery. It introduced me to one of the better developed characters I've ever met. And it didn't even need a sequel. Now, you might wonder why - given this premise - I'm awarding 5 stars to the second installment as well. And you might suspect that I'm being nice to the author because I'm talking to him on a semi-regular basis, or because I'm trying to milk more free books from him/his publisher (despite my disclaimer). OK, the truth? Even if Deadgirl: Ghostlight isn't a perfect book (we'll get to that later), I found myself comparing it to all my 4 and 4.5 star novels, and I realised that I loved it so much more than them. That it had an impact on my heart and mind they lacked, if for a tiny margin. That I cared for the characters and loved to journey with them too much for detracting half stars. Coming from a middle aged lady, and what with the series centering on a bunch of teens none of which resembles me at ANY age, I suppose this is testament enough to the author's skill of engaging with readers :).
THE (UN)USUAL MESS
Unlike Book 1 (which was a non-stop ride spanning a few days), the second installment of Deadgirl follows Lucy and her friends for a whole year, and alternates supernatural/paranormal incidents with teen drama and a bunch of cozy (so to speak) moments. We follow Lucy while she's trying to adjust to her unlife and learn the ropes, use her powers for the greater good (which puts her in grave danger, because apparently, not being alive doesn't mean you're immune to misery), joggle parents, friends and school, and unsuccessfully stay away from potential heartbreak (i.e. dating). The variety makes for an entertaining, multifaceted, always surprising read. There's also a fresh and lively theater subplot - the author worked as a stage hand for a while, which I guess explains his confidence with this particular environment. But the acme of the book for me is the scene where Lucy finds her whole being (or unbeing) challenged, and it takes all her strenght to believe in herself, whatever she is. For all her paranormal gifts, Lucy is not a superheroine - she covers all the spectrum from weak to strong (though she definitely leans towards the strong end), and her real weapons are her emotions and willpower. Which is why she managed to escape death-death in the first place... [...]
I'M SO DEAD
In regard to Lucy's state of being, Book 2 really starts biting into the mythology of the series. We know what Lucy is by now, and what sustains her - but how does her unlife work? what keeps her (sort of) alive - apart from other people's memories and emotions? can she grow old and/or die for good? We gets the first tentative answers to these questions, but since we're travelling at Lucy's speed - so to speak - there are so many things she still doesn't know, and discoveries we'll get to make in her company (and Puck's) as the series progresses.
SEX, LIES AND PARENTS
In case you're wondering, parents do have a role in this series. I still think that Lucy is able to fool them too easily in one occasion at least...and they don't even know she's a phantom yet...but they are indeed around, and there are a few instances of parents and daughter interacting in a way that we don't often see in YA. And...there's a sex scene in the book. A sex scene that I actually LIKED, so if you know me...well, it says something. Not particularly explicit, more geared to exploring the emotional side of things, very well written and with a realistic touch of comedy (because yes, "there's no sexy way to remove loafers and socks". Ha!). Also, condoms make an appearance (even if Lucy wouldn't need them, what with being a phantom, but her partner doesn't know yet), and even the guy, for all his experience in the field, is a little anxious, "Because this stuff is scary." Thank you for equality, Mr. Johnson :).
Now for the things I liked less - let's talk about teen drama, shall we? It's a territory that I try to stay clear of don't usually frequent - so I can't say I related to some of the events that happen in the book THAT MUCH. There's even an almost-love-triangle (is it a love triangle if it involves an ex you still care for and a new love interest you’re warming to? I suppose…), with an additional complication. But what could have been your average angst manages to elevate over that because, on the other hand, neither the writing nor the characters nor their predicament (well, Lucy's at least) are average. And Lucy is able to pinpoint the difference between her feelings for the boy she lost and the one she's falling for - so no instalove.
OUT OF PICKINESS
OK, there's no denying it: the author has a tendency to hit the pause button even in life-and-death situations sometimes. It was true for Deadgirl and it's true for Deadgirl: Ghostlight as well. Lucy and her friends muse about things, talk to one another, contemplate the physical changes Lucy herself undergoes when she's "charged", and in one instance even kiss - all when lives are at stakes and time is a crucial issue. This makes for some great scenes, but I found it a tad unrealistic...Also, I do understand where Lucy is coming from about Wanda, but the poor thing is always the last item on her checklist - though there's a redeeming moment of fellowship and understanding between them (thanks to Lucy's gifts) that I really liked. There's a huge dose of slang in the book. To me it's not annoying - I understand it helps setting the tone - but someone might think otherwise. There are also a bunch of pop culture references from various ages scattered through the novel, and maybe the whole thing is a little overdone (also because I’m not sure a teen would be familiar with all of them). I think I've spotted some continuity issues, too (nothing that detracts from the enjoyment of reading). The first one is in relation to Book 1: the character who apparently knew about Lucy’s destiny before she was murdered didn’t seem overly concerned back then, while this person is really close to her (and even feels retroactively guilty) now. Point 2 is about Lucy's connection with a certain character from the Grey, which should get severed once they meet there again - only it doesn't happen the first time they do. (OK, they technically don't meet - they catapult in there together - but still...). Point 3 regards Lucy's newfound ability to read people's thoughts, at least those she care about the most. But apparently, Lucy is not as good at reading people as she thinks, because she isn't able to uncover someone's big secret... Last small complaint: a new character is introduced in the first chapters, and I thought he would turn out to be a love interest for Lucy, but he disappeares after a few pages. I'm sure we will meet him again in Book 3, but even then, having him come in the foreground and almost immediately vanish was a bit odd. On the other hand, it happens in real life sometimes...
THANK YOU FOR NOT CLIFFHANGING
Bottom line: this book has guts, muscles, and a heart. Even when it took a turn for a realm I don't usually feel confortable visiting (teen drama), I ended up being sucked into it. I can see it appeal to a slightly different, maybe wider range of people than the first one. And if you're over-sensitive about cliffhangers...no need to worry: like in Book 1, there are a few loose ends here, the promise of a new story, but the novel is totally self-contained. Hooray!
Lucy Day tweets! at least when she's not busy unsuccessfully trying not to date, or battling rapist serial killers. Find her @LuceDay.
For quotes from this book click here. For my "Deadgirl" review (first installment in the series) click here. For my interviews with B.C. Johnson click here and here. For more Afterlife books click here.