I wanted to like Amy Talkington’s Liv, Forever a whole lot more than I did. After all, it seemed tailor-made for my tastes: It’s narrated by an odd-girl-out scholarship student at a ritzy boarding school, there’s a secret society, star-crossed love, ghosts and MURRRRDERRRRRRR.
Actually, I’d have even settled for hating it, because that would have at least been a strong reaction. Instead, all it inspired in me was a big “meh.” It’s a mostly solid book—I awarded it bonus points for Talkington’s portrayal of the tension that arises in a trio of friends when one has to constantly translate for the other two, but also subtracted some for being excessively adverb-y—but there’s nothing particularly memorable here, nothing that makes it stand apart from any number of other romantic paranormals. Mystery-wise, if you’ve seen Reptile Boy from the second season of Buffy, you’ll have figured it all out before you even read the first page. (Well, minus the giant snake thing.)
About a third of the way in, Liv becomes one of the many ghosts of Wickham Hall, and while that gives her an interesting perspective, there’s nothing about her voice that snaps, crackles or pops—and the same can be said about the voices of the other girls, who mostly sound like amped-up stereotypes of their various historical periods. So in my memory at least, Liv Bloom is unlikely to linger even as long as The Lovely Bones’ Susie Salmon.
Here are a few ghostly narrators who HAVE stuck with me:
Jacob Grimm, from Far Far Away: Readers will continue to debate about this book’s true target audience ad infinitum, as well violently disagreeing about its pacing, its storyline and the agency (or lack thereof) of its teen characters. What isn’t up for debate is the strength, the originality and the life in the narrative voice. I loved this one, and have been happy to see it gain a small-but-passionate fanbase at my library.
Helen, from A Certain Slant of Light: Holy cow, Kirkus HATED this book, panning it as “unsurprising,” “cold,” and “predictable.” I found it anything but. Helen is a ghost who doesn’t know why she’s still kicking around, so she’s spent over a century hopping from one human host to another—she always goes for people who have literary interests—and then, one day, she falls in love.
Billy, from The Sledding Hill: After dying in a freak accident, Billy watches over his best friend, Eddie—who has also recently lost his father—as he lands himself right in the middle of a huge censorship brouhaha…that is centered around a book by Chris Crutcher. If you can get past the all of the speechifying and the strawman villain who reads like an amalgamation of every censor Crutcher has ever come up against in real life, it’s funny and angry and extremely meta.
Any favorites that you’d add?
If she isn't writing Bookshelves of Doom or running the show at her local library, Leila Roy might be making stuff for her Etsy shop while rewatching Veronica Mars, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Babylon 5, Black Books or Twin Peaks. Well, that or she’s hanging out on Twitter. Or both.