Special $12.85 (Regular price: $16.99)
Publisher: Chronicle Books
Reviewer: Melissa on June 27, 2013
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
No one wants to be stuck in high school forever. Unfortunately, seventeen-year-old Paige died in an accidental fall off the school’s roof during a Physics assignment. Now she’s a ghost, who finds herself permanently bound to the school grounds. Of course, it isn’t all bad. She has Evan and Brooke, two other students who died there, to keep her company. Plus, being a ghost means that she can hear everyone’s secrets, which certainly has some advantages…at least for a little while. However, when the most popular girl in school starts a rumor that Paige’s death wasn’t an accident – that she jumped on purpose – Paige is desperate to quash the gossip mill, which isn’t easy now that she doesn’t have a body. In Katie Williams‘ second novel, Absent, Paige comes to realize that not only she can take possession of the bodies of her classmates when they think of her, but also she can make them do almost anything she can imagine. If only she could get inside the body of the girl who is responsible for the rumor…and maybe have some fun at her expense.
While I haven’t had the opportunity to read Williams’ first novel, The Space Between Trees, I just might have to bump it up on my TBR pile after completing Absent. The latter is just that good. Even better, the more time I take to think about it to write this review, the more in love with it I am. Why? Paige, Evan, and Brooke’s permanent detention is The Breakfast Club in purgatory. Or at least it starts out that way. At the beginning, Williams places these three dead teens within the context of the world in which they both had lived and are living in since their death, surrounded by their classmates during their grief group meeting. They are both spectators of their classmates and active participants in their own right at this moment; their complex balance within the high school community is so important, and that Williams is able to get it right speaks to her understanding of the characters and storytelling ability. Like the characters in the 80s film I mentioned, Paige, Evan, Brooke would never have been friends without being forced together by death. In fact, Paige has a tendency to divide her classmates based on stereotypical understandings of who they are and unsubstantiated rumors, something which also trickles down to the way she views her fellow ghosts. What happens over the course of the novel and how Paige’s character may change, however, is for you to find out when you pick it up.
Clearly, this novel has a contemporary YA feel to it, but with three ghosts among the characters, it isn’t surprising that I’d actually characterize this novel as a Gothic YA story. It’s not scary. In fact, there are moments in which you’ll find yourself laughing out loud. At the same time, however, Williams employs imagery from the classic Gothic stories of the 18th century with complete mastery and understanding of their relevance. In particular, the symbol of the veil is expertly employed in relation to the drop cloth protecting the memorial mural, except she may be using the symbol to turn it on its head in the long run. Moreover, like most Gothic novels, there is a mystery element related to how Evan died, why the most popular girl in school lied about Paige’s death, and various plot twists and turns that readers won’t expect.
In Absent, the characters may have been permanently marked absent from class, but their memories live on their fellow classmates’ minds and in the readers’ hearts. Pick it up today and get swept up in Williams’ clever interpretation of what happens after we die.
Buy Absent today and save 24% off the regular price!