First off, I know it's been said a million times, but a big "thank you for being a friend" goes out to the divine Ms. Rue McClanahan. Blanche was always my fave Golden Girl, and real-life Rue was no slouch herself. Hope you're eating cheesecake with other fabulous people in the big condo in the sky. I'll publicly defend condoms in your honor any day:
So, guess who got another free book in the mail? The folks at Bloomsbury asked if I'd review a new paranormal YA for them--Deception: a Haunting Emma Novel, by Lee Nichols--and I was happy to oblige ('cause I'm a sucker for all things free). If you're a fan of my super-awesome reviews, throw your mittens around your kittens and awaaay we go!
For seventeen-year-old Emma Vaile, life has gotten a bit weird of late. Her antique dealer parents left for an overseas business trip and haven't been heard from since. Alone in the house, Emma's beginning to experience the very same visions that plagued her as a child, and at school, she finally finds a group of friends . . . only to lose them when a house party goes bad. Enter her brother's former BFF and Emma's longtime crush, Bennett, who whisks her away to suburban Boston and a fancy private school. In this brand-new environment, Emma learns just what these visions mean: she and Bennett are ghostkeepers, meaning they can communicate with ghosts. As Emma's powers grow stronger, she must work with Bennett to track an otherworldly murderer who may be linked to her parents' disappearance--while also balancing school, new friendships, and a budding relationship with a golden-boy quarterback. Oh, and she's still mad hot for Bennett.
Deception isn't one I'd have picked up while browsing: as a rule, paranormal isn't my preferred subgenre. To me, the most interesting things happen in the here and now. That said, Nichols does a great job of integrating the here and now with the ghostly elements of Deception's core plot. I liked Emma's sassy, sardonic voice, and I believed her tentative navigation of high school's caste system of popularity. Bennett is every inch the YA dreamboat, the type I want to crush on even though as a grown woman I feel sort of pervy doing it. The dialogue is snappy, the descriptions tight and vivid, and the pacing just right. I sped through this book not because I was on a deadline, but because I was genuinely interested in what would happen next.
I did have a couple of issues with the book. First, this is more my personal taste than a reflection on the writing, but I really don't like long action sequences. Do what you need to do, characters, but I'm more about reading your verbal and emotional interactions. Reading fight scenes just doesn't do it for me.
Also, I detected a bit of Bella Swan syndrome in Emma. Not in her character, per se--for the most part, Emma is strong and witty--but in the way that she is taken in almost immediately by the popular crowd for no real reason. Nichols tries to explain this away: it's a small school, everyone's known one another forever, and new blood is always welcomed and appreciated. As someone who went to a small private school, I can acknowledge that this is often the case. Still . . . here, I didn't quite buy it. I liked Emma's new friends, and appreciated how the popular kids were nice people underneath their rich-kid facades, but I would have liked a bit more relationship development and a bit less, "boom, you're one of us now."
Overall, however, Deception is a fun read that provides equal parts spook and snark. In a Bella Swan world, strong female heroines are always welcome, and Emma Vaile fits the bill. As an added bonus, the book ends on a cliffhanger that promises more ghostly adventure to come.
A'ight, who wants to play Armchair Casting Director?
Emma: Leah Pipes
From the category of Should Have a Better Career, Ms. Pipes has appeared in the little seen girl-power soccer flick Her Best Move and the trashy Audrina Patridge cameo-ing Sorority Row. Still, I like her. She's got the acting chops and is beautiful but slightly gawky--make her look a few years younger (and in Hollywood, the teens are almost always played by twentysomethings anyway), and you've got a pretty awesome Emma.
Bennett: Aaron Johnson
Maybe I'm prejudiced because a) I've interviewed the guy, and b) he's already played a Bennett in the film The Greatest. But the name suits him. He can pull off New England preppie with secrets (again, The Greatest), he's a Brit but can do a very believable American accent, and he looks older now than he did in Kick-Ass. Plus, would you look at those peepers? YUM.
Deception: a Haunting Emma Novel will be in stores tomorrow, June 8. Lee Nichols is also the author of three adult novels--click here to learn more about her.
And now it's GIVEAWAY TIIIIIME!
Want to win a copy of Deception? You know you do! And it couldn't be easier: all you have to do is leave a comment. Anything remotely enthusiastic or intelligent is cool; no haters please. Make sure you include your email address.
The contest will be open until end of day Friday, at which time I'll select a commenter at random and email the winner. You must live in the continental United States to be eligible (publisher's rule, not mine).
What are you waiting for? Comment away and win!