"Alex's life is turned upside down after his father's sudden death. An old pamphlet found in his father's belongings leads Alex and his mother, Charlotte, to a remote Polynesian island. His mother longs for a place untouched by past memories, and Alex hopes the trip will help her to heal. Their arrival on the island elicits an eerie episode of déjà vu for Alex, and he begins to wonder about the pamphlet and his father's past. Why did he have it? Had he been there before? Alex senses something is off with the island. Progress is unwelcome by the inhabitants. A local girl reveals the history of the island and its dark spirits. She warns him to never be caught outside after dark, but Alex finds it all hard to believe... Until inexplicable and terrifying events begin to unfold. While digging for information, Alex finds his presence on the haunted island is not by chance. Rangur, the most evil of souls, aims to use him to acquire great power. There's only one way Alex can stop him and for that he must uncover his father's past connection to the island."
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
We have this tendency to believe that those who talk to invisible things (at least invisible to us) are in need of some heavy duty medication, if not some time in a small room with padded walls. Yet individuals talking and working with/around things invisible to others are found in literature and myth throughout the ages. Whether they are talking to sprites, faeries, spirits, the deceased, whatever....they are generally eyed through a lens of skepticism and doubt.
Where does that leave a teenage boy who is suddenly seeing and hearing things, given that his life is awkward enough simply because he is a teenage boy?
What do you do when your father has recently died, your painter mother effectively has killed your plans of fun for the summer, and suddenly you are seeing things? That's exactly the kind of conundrum that Alex, our main character, faces in this delightful book!
Did I really just say delightful? I guess so, but this book really is delightful!
Beaty has created a lighthearted romp through territory that could be enough to drag out the annoying little things in my brain that cause nightmares for weeks. Alex is a young man who has just lost his father and is being dragged into a summer vacation that is sure to be a drag. After all, what 16-year-old guy wants to spend 3 weeks with his mom on a Caribbean island where he is sure to not have cell phone service? Alex is sure he's going to die of boredom...but that boredom is not to be! Alex hasn't been on the island one day before he's seen a pair of feet walking around (just the feet, mind you) and some spooky shadows.
Turns out there is more to the island than meets the eye. Well, at least than meets the eye of typical people. Turns out Alex has a special gift that means he can see spirits. At least his new lady interest is not a spirit...though she has plenty of spirit! And that is the last of the plot spoilers that I'm going to give you (hopefully).
I really liked how this book is a quick, light read that includes an engaging, fast-paced plot that grabs readers for a sprint through the spirit world. Not the spirit world in the sense of Heaven and Hell, but rather the sense of spirit activity happening around living individuals, some of whom have gifts where they can sense what is going on and some of whom do not. Rather like our own world, I think (if you haven't figured it out by now, I'm a strong Christian who believes in spiritual warfare...so there.).
Anyhow, Alex is a captivating, charming young man who makes me laugh. Beaty has created a character in Alex that I likely would have had a crush on had I met him in high school. She has also created characters that have traits with which many people can identify. Awkward teen...artist experiencing a blank period...someone who recently lost a special person in their life to death...etc. Character interaction is neat, realistic, and makes sense throughout the work.
Let's see, the story itself is really intriguing. Spirit world at work in and around the physical world? Spirits with grudges that have lasted decades? Young man who suddenly, for some inexplicable reason, can see spirits and is enmeshed in a battle of good versus evil? Young love? Yep, this is a good read.
The Bugly (bad/ugly)
Okay, here we go...
I abhor dangling details. By that I mean it is incredibly irksome when something doesn't make sense or is left unexplained. Unfortunately, that happens a lot in this work. Why is Alex suddenly able to see spirits on this island when he was unable to before? Is it because of his father's connection to the island? And what exactly is his father's connection (I feel like this was explained at one point, but the explanation was choppy and I was still confused)? Why why why...? Okay, so I am that pesky person who is constantly haranguing people with "why...", but I found myself doing that constantly while reading this book, and it was driving me to distraction.
It was also incredibly difficult to figure out who was a spirit (and on which side...at least initially) and who was a person. Even by the end of the book I kept asking myself "wait, is he corporeal or invisible?" It is difficult to do appropriate amounts of backstory while keeping the plot and its flow intact, but these characters needed more backstory...and perhaps something a list at the end that differentiates spirits vs. people.
Details were lacking in a lot of scenes that would have helped make some things make sense. Why did that person suddenly appear over here? Why did this thing go this way? Etc. Sure, readers have to do some work, but they should also be guided through that work...not tossed in the deep end or off a cliff or some other proverbial thing that means they are doing too much work with too little guidance.
Overall this is a very fun read with some glaring difficulties. Despite the difficulties mentioned above, I really did enjoy reading this book. Characters and plot are engaging, it is a quick read, and it is light-hearted. Sadly, the glaring difficulties play on some of my pet peeves, so that drops my rating. However, this is a good read. :)
Overall, I give this book a 6 out of 10.