Most helpful critical review
Great Premise & Plot, But The Characters Let It Down
on 11 March 2015
I'm very mixed over my thoughts on this novel. The story idea (girl who sees ghosts and ends up getting involved, against her better judgement, in the solving of a case) was really interesting and had so much potential. I could really see how the writer had managed to produce another two novels, because the topic had lots of places it could go.
The story structure and chapter structure was very well done. The key events and introduction of characters are spread out and there is a clear build up towards the ending. The pace, particularly in the second half of the book, is fast and exciting. Questions are planted in the first chapter that kept me wanting to read on. Unfortunately right near the end the plot seems to fall apart and we're left very unsatisfied by who turns out to be the murderer, because there are no clues at all to suggest it's that person. We feel left out of the loop and almost like the writer changed her mind right at the end. I believe it would have been much more powerful if clues had been planted and we'd maybe figured it out a second of two before Mattie. The writing itself is good, there's description when needed and the writer doesn't rely too heavily on it.
The voice of the protagonist, Mattie Hathaway, is where things start to go wrong. The voice is very believable as a teenage girl, but the language can be so repetitive. Mattie stats early on that she doesn't swear, which is fine, I don't swear, but I also don't say 'fudgepops' when I'm in life and death situations. Even those of us who watch our language have stronger language (even if it's not swear words) in our ammo for more stressful situations. Mattie's repetition isn't just in her language but in her logic. One minute Mattie is friendly with Officer Dan, then she's angry with him, then she's friendly; and her reasoning for doing is unrealistic and makes her seem childish and even selfish at times.
Characterisation in general is a big flaw in this novel. All of the male characters are physically perfect, overly confident and fancy Mattie. In my opinion it isn't realistic for teenage boys to be so obvious about fancying a girl, particularly when they know she has a girlfriend. Mattie didn't seem particularly surprised by this attention, and even stated at one point that she knew she was attractive. She also changed her mind every few seconds about who her 'soul mate' was. The whole romance aspect of the book made Mattie seems shallow and unlikable, especially when at times she seems to care more about who would be her boyfriend, rather than solving the murder.
Similar to the issues with the guys, the girls had the opposite problem. All female characters introduced seemed to have very obvious flaws, except Mattie, and all of them had a strong rivalry against her. Officer Dan's girlfriend in particular was a caricature and I found it extremely unlikely that he would ever date someone that obnoxious.
In conclusion. If you're a fan of supernatural young adult fiction, then this could be worth a read especially as it's free on Kindle. However, I won't be reading on in the series, which is a pity because I did enjoy the story, just not Mattie. And as the book is written in first person, this is quite a major issue.