Her family moved to give Erin a fresh start, and, for the first time—though she’d gladly settle for going unnoticed—someone sees her clearly: Joe, the dead boy whose room she now occupies.
The pendant Erin finds in her closet sparks their connection, as do the passionate, unhappy poems he’s scrawled on the closet walls; her own writing’s helped Erin survive years of chronic anxiety and bullying. Unclear on how he died or why he’s confined to his bedroom, Joe regains a physical presence when Erin’s present—they can even touch—but when she leaves the room, he drifts into an insubstantial half life. When his terror manifests physically, he’s exorcized (against Erin’s wishes) and reawakens in another former refuge, a seaside cove. Sensing his time is running out, helpless to move beyond his rocky prison, Joe clings to Erin, his remaining hold on a world no longer his. Meanwhile, Erin forges a friendship with Joe’s older brother, Olly: handsome, popular, athletic, and very much alive. For Olly, consumed with guilt and grief since Joe’s death, Erin’s his path to a new life. Kessler delicately plumbs emotional depths, avoiding easy outs. With narration alternating among them, the three principals, all white, are well-drawn, but the increasingly desperate Joe exerts the strongest pull on readers.
Though dead, the charismatic Joe tows this delicate romance from the genre shallows into deeper, darker waters, where holding onto love literally separates life from death. (Paranormal romance. 12-17)