Friday, 24 September 2010
Review: My So-Called Haunting - Tamsyn Murray
When Skye comes to stay with her aunt in London, things really get tricky. Not only is she falling fast for school hottie Nico, but she's also made friends with Dontay... who just so happens to have recently died. One boy needs her help, and the other seems to be interested in something more - but do both spell trouble?
My So-Called Haunting is the follow-up to Brit author Tamsyn Murray's fabulous first novel, My So-Called Afterlife. It's a companion novel rather than a direct sequel, which means that although we're hanging out with a different main character, there's a few familiar faces and a welcome return to ghost hangout The Church of the Dearly Departed.
Skye is your average teenager. She goes to school, she feels like a loser, and when she comes home she squabbles with the centuries-old ghost who haunts the place. Having seen ghosts her entire life, Skye is fairly easy-going about her 'gift', but there's a dark side to it too - such as being the only person on the bus each morning who sees the ghost of a woman repeatedly throwing herself off a bridge. Creepy, right? Though clairvoyance runs in her family, her mum doesn't possess it, and this puts a certain emotional distance between them. There's also some actual distance, since her mum is working overseas for a year and Skye's come down from Scotland to live in London with her equally clairvoyant aunt and her aunt's boyfriend Jeremy (if you've read MSCA, you'll recognise them). Although it's Skye's story, cantankerous spirit Mary Drover definitely steals the show - always on hand to accuse Skye of dressing like a strumpet or lament the unnaturalness of modern technology, she's like a really really old grandparent who just happens to be able to walk through walls.
While Skye narrates events with plenty of wry humour (the best kind) the tone is a perhaps a smidgen more serious than My So-Called Afterlife. Murray tackles the topical theme of gang culture as Skye befriends ghost boy Dontay, who was recently murdered and hasn't yet been able to move on. Dontay's story develops in a way that will undoubtedly convey a positive message to tweens and younger teens, although older readers might find the approach slightly simplistic. But where My So-Called Haunting really excels is in the romance between Skye and her (impossibly handsome, swoonworthy and mysterious) crush Nico. Although it starts out much as your regular paranormal YA romance, it soon heads off in a far more unexpected direction. It's twisty and entertaining and somehow far more real than all that 'instant soulmates' stuff you want to believe in but never quite can. When it comes to romance, this book has smarts, and that is a very good thing.
My So-Called Haunting is overflowing with wicked fun ghostly goodness. It's the kind of book you'll find yourself giggling out loud at, and quite possibly trying to pass off a few of Skye's witty asides as your own. If you like your ghost stories more snarky than scary, you'll like this.
Out: September 24th 2010, UK
Thanks to Piccadilly for providing a review copy of this book.