Deception: Haunting Emma, #1 -- Lee Nichols

I think we've reached saturation point on the YA Covers Featuring Girls With Glowy Necklace front:

Glowy 1 Glowy 2 Glowy 3

Obviously, I know there are others. And I feel that the necklace on the first cover is more glowy in person than it looks here. But those are the first ones that came to mind—the first two because of the crap new cover on Silver Phoenix¹, and the third one because, DUH, that's the one I'm writing about in the first place. And in Bloomsbury's defense, the necklace DOES play an important role² in the book. Although I don't remember it glowing.

Ah yes, Deception. Which is what I'm supposed to be writing about here.

Seventeen-year-old Emma Vaile's antique dealer parents go overseas on what is supposed to be a three-week business trip. And then they just don't come back. Oh, they don't die or anything—she thinks—I mean, she gets a postcard from them and everything, saying that they're going to go and visit her brother in Tibet or wherever, but she can't reach them on their cellphone and so, for all intents and purposes, they're just... gone.

After social services finds out—due to a HUGE betrayal on the part of Emma's so-called "friend"—Emma is whisked away to the East Coast, to live with her brother's ex-best-friend, Bennett Stern. Who Emma has always had the hots for. So, there she is, abandoned by her parents, attending a swanky private school, and living with a dreamboat (who, as far as she can tell, sees her as a little sister). 

Oh, and somehow—even though it's supposedly her first time there—all of the buildings seem familiar. And she's been having visions, both while she's awake and after fainting. So, is she going crazy? After all, she did spend some time in an institution when she was younger. Or are the visions real? In which case, hey, yay for sanity, but you know, problematic in other ways...

In brief: YAY, FUN. Emma was likable³ and occasionally laugh-out-loud funny, and her personal history with mental illness (OR SO SHE WAS LED TO BELIEVE) made her refusal to believe in what she was experiencing understandable*, and made her decision to take the leap and believe in what she was seeing all the more impressive. By throwing in a few nods to the conventions of the genre, the author made it clear that Emma hadn't been raised in the I've Never Watched A Horror Movie Or Read A Ghost Story bubble that so many heroines of the genre grow up in:

What was my name doing on that painting? Was this all some elaborate hoax?  yeah. Someone was drugging me so I'd have psychotic flashbacks into dead people's memories and see imaginary people hovering everywhere.

Sure, I was so important, there was a conspiracy after me.

Her banter with Bennett made me like him:

"You drive this?" I said.
"What's wrong with it?"
"Looks moody and irritable," I said, giving him a meaningful look as he tossed my bags in the back.
"Not at all," he said. "Totally trustworthy."

despite some of his behavior and the TITLE OF THE BOOK, which made me automatically, you know, SUSPICIOUS. And the descriptions of her interactions with the ghosts (that's not a spoiler, guys, the series is called Haunting Emma, for Pete's sake) were often affectionately fun, which is a nice change from a lot of the ghost stories I've read over the last few years:

Just when I decided there wasn't enough light, the man in the brown suit began to glow.
"Oh, you've got to be kidding me," I said.
He grinned in his luminescent way.

I felt that the actual worldbuilding and "YOU'RE A GHOSTKEEPER, EMMA" stuff wasn't as strong as her voice, and that the first three-quarters (five-sixths, even) of the book was stronger than the last bit—the lead-in to the overarching mystery was very HELLO, I'M THE LEAD-IN TO THE OVERARCHING MYSTERY—but, regardless, I'm looking forward to the next book in the series.

So, yes, FUN, if you go in for the paranormal private school thing. Which I do.


¹Which was a book that I wasn't as enamored of as the rest of blogdom seemed to be, but I did love the original cover.

²That is so not a spoiler. The circumstances of Emma's Necklace Discovery are such that there may as well have been a big booming voice that said, "TAKE NOTE. THIS IS AN IMPORTANT PLOT POINT." That's not a criticism of the writing—it's just a convention of the genre. If a protagonist discovers a carefully hidden piece of jewelry and decides to start wearing it AT ALL TIMES, you can be assured that later on, IT WILL MATTER. It's the gun/first act thing. Oh, check it out -- the convention has a name. Cool. Oh, hey, I'd better move back up to the review.

³Unlike the heroine in the book I'm reading right now, HOO BOY.

*As opposed to heroines in other books who are all, "NO. THERE IS NOTHING ODD HAPPENING HERE. A GHOSTLY FIGURE JUST GAVE ME INFORMATION ABOUT SOMETHING I'D HAVE NO POSSIBLE WAY OF KNOWING, AND IT TURNED OUT TO BE ACCURATE, BUT I'M SURE THAT THERE'S A LOGICAL EXPLANATION FOR IT." Uh, yeah. The logical explanation is that THE GHOST IS REAL, dummy. She's not like that. Wow, I've really lost it with the footnotes this time around.


Book source: Review copy from the publisher.


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