Thursday, April 19, 2012
Review: The Ghost and the Goth by Stacey Kade
The Ghost and the Goth (Ghost and the Goth #1)
By: Stacey Kade
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
About the book:
After a close encounter with a bus, Alona Dare goes from homecoming queen to Queen of the Dead. She’s stuck as a ghost in the land of the living with no sign of the big, bright light to take her to a better place. To make matters worse, the only person who might be able to help her is Will Killian, a total loser outcast.
More than anything, Will wishes he didn’t have the rare ability to communicate with the dead, especially the former mean girl of Groundsboro High. He’s not filling out any volunteer forms to help her cross to the other side, though it would bring him some welcome peace and quiet.
Can they get over their mutual distrust -- and quasi-attraction -- to work together? Readers of this spirited paranormal comedy won't want this odd couple to ever part.
Alona Dare is the undisputed queen of her school, possessing the perfect body, the perfect friends, the perfect boyfriend. Her life is the envy of her lesser peers, a carefully crafted image she jealously guards and cultivates with the aplomb of a savvy press agent. But there are cracks in the foundation of Alona's perfect life -- a less-than-perfect home life that reaches a boiling point, leading Alona to an unguarded, fateful moment when she steps in front of a bus and is instantly killed. But death is nothing like Alona expected, as she shortly wakes up still in the land of the living -- not living, exactly, but stuck "in-between," forced to watch life go on sans her sparkling presence. To her everlasting chagrin the only one who can still see her and hear her is Will Killian, a loser -- the type of guy she'd have never associated with when she was alive. But she needs Will and his "knack" for communicating with the dead if she has any hope of moving on from land of in-between. For his part Will would like nothing better than to see Alona disappear for good -- his "gift" has brought him nothing but heartache and stress, and one less unseen voice clamoring for his attention can only be seen as a win. But the more Will and Alona get to know each other the more they begin to realize a spark of what might have been if either had dared to look beyond the superficial. When a particularly malevolent ghost sets its sights on Will's destruction, the Alona and Will are forced to become allies, and in the process discover the sparks of a relationship neither saw coming which proves a force that cannot be denied.
Paranormals of any sort are pretty much completely outside the realm of my reading experience, but after a friend's review I knew I had to check this book out. Fabulously cheesy title and candy-colored cover aside, it sounded like just plain fun. And oh, I'm so glad I stepped outside my norm and tried this, as The Ghost and the Goth is ridiculously entertaining from start to finish. With Alona and Will, Kade has created two of the most memorable characters to populate YA lit that I've ever had the pleasure of meeting on the page. Just when you think you have Alona all figured out -- spoiled, bratty, and privileged -- sure you could never, ever pull for her as a heroine, Kade gradually lays out the truth of Alona's backstory, revealing her heartache and struggles and just how easy it is to judge her, even as we as readers formed our own preconceived notions about Alona because of how she perceived others. And Will -- oh my WORD, where was a Will when I was in high school (never mind, where is the equivalent now? LOL)? He is quite simply one of the most swoon-worthy heroes ever, the struggling social outcast, burdened by a gift (curse?) he never wanted, absolutely sure he has Alona's character nailed until she begins to prove him wrong.
Kade gives us these characters, their hopes, dreams, and fears beautifully realized on the page, and she nails the teenage point-of-view. All of the uncertainty and angst are there, but that never bogs down the narrative because sparks positively fly from the page whenever Will and Alona meet. The novel alternates between chapters in each principle's point-of-view, allowing us to see their transformation and slow-burning romance gain traction, as the most unlikely romantic pair you'd ever hope to meet starts to discover just how much they've come to matter to each other. And if sarcasm and witty banter are your thing, Kade delivers it in spades. The snarky one-liners fly between Alona and Will non-stop, so much so that they began to remind me a bit of my favorite bickering Shakespearean couple, Beatrice and Benedick of Much Ado About Nothing. Yes, I just pulled the Shakespeare card -- I loved this pair that much. :)
This is a breezy, fast read, the perfect candy-coated brand of escapism I found myself craving this week. Kade keeps the action moving at a snappy pace, never losing sight of her story's greatest asset -- the wonderfully snarky back-and-forth between Alona and Will. And I loved how she gradually metes out the secrets of each character's backstory, constantly dropping tantalizing clues, just enough information to keep you flipping pages at a breathless pace. And while the climax is a bit (ahem) over-the-top, the earnestness it provokes in Will and Alona, their heartfelt desire to help each other more than makes up for it. While I could've done without some of the swearing, this is a surprisingly clean novel with an equally surprising romantic sizzle that guarantees I'll be reading its sequels. The Ghost and the Goth is a ridiculously fun, engaging, addictive read -- very, very well done.