This blend of paranormal romance, murder mystery and quirky, coming-of-age narrative offers tasty moments, but the elements prove incompatible, leaving a bad taste in mouths.
Thanks to her mother’s abrupt remarriage, Isobel, a budding artist, must finish high school on a small island in the Pacific Northwest where her new stepfather, Richard Wickham, and his gorgeous son, Nathaniel, reside in an incongruously Gothic mansion with a troubled history. Past residents and visitors have disappeared here, including—seven months ago—Richard’s wife and daughter. Nate and Isobel’s mutual resentment quickly morphs into mutual attraction, complicated by the attentions to Nate of Nicole, the island’s über cheerleader and social queen bee. Not nice, but Isobel has bigger worries, like the ghost appearing in her bedroom who wants something from her and Richard’s growing conviction that Isobel has inherited her father’s schizophrenia. Veering between breezy, humorous teen and shivery paranormality, Isobel’s voice—that snarky tone of humorous exasperation so common in YA literature—clashes with the increasingly serious, violent subject matter: troubled ghosts, brutal crimes and “lessons learned” about mental illness, standing up to bullies and overcoming fear.
As she did in The Education of Hailey Kendrick (2011), Cook gives readers a fast-paced plot, likable narrator and interesting characters, but even first-rate ingredients can’t save a flawed recipe. (Suspense. 14 & up)