There are two distinct groups of readers who’re bound to find Risa Green’s Projection a whole lot of fun: Fans of Sara Shepard’s Pretty Little Liars and The Lying Game, and fans of the website TV Tropes. Shepard fans—especially fans of The Lying Game, which, like Projection, has paranormal elements—will love the intrigue, the mystery and the drama, while fans of TV Tropes will enjoy identifying the various genre conventions that Green weaves together into a cohesive, entertaining whole.
The Oculus Society runs Delphi, Calif. Although outsiders view them simply as a glorified Junior League, the women of Oculus do more than rule the Delphi social scene: They are the keepers of a secret power that traces all the way back to ancient Rome. None of the members of Oculus has ever USED said power…but they closely guard their knowledge of the Plotinus Ability just the same.
Then, on the night of her daughter’s eighth-grade graduation, the leader of the Society is murdered, and her amber anklet—which, as far as the members of Oculus know, is a crucial component in wielding the power that Plotinus discovered—is stolen. Her daughter swears vengeance, and over the course of her investigation, Gretchen and her best friend try something that no one has ever tried before: They perform Plotinus’ rite. And it works.
And that’s JUST THE BEGINNING.
Oddly enough, my favorite and least favorite things about Projection are exactly the same things I loved and loathed about Pretty Little Liars. Like Shepard, Green provides lots of over-the-top outward drama while still keeping the internal emotional turmoil genuine and relatable. In other words, she does a great job of portraying the uneasy balancing act of social interactions in high school. Also like Shepard, though, her story features a storyline in which a picture of two girls kissing goes viral, and THE WORLD AS THEY KNOW IT ENDS.
Unfortunately, in some places and within some subsets of our culture, that’s a storyline that is certainly still within the realm of imaginable possibility…I guess. But it’s also a case in which the girls would attract a fair share of defenders, too—not just detractors—and, as each new generation seems to be more and more blasé about issues of sexuality, it does seem like a situation that would have blown over pretty quickly, at least among their own peers.
Which is what makes the next part of the story so hard for me to buy: The girls are forced to “distance” themselves from the Society, and one of them gets packed off to boarding school, while the other—according to rumor, anyway—ends up in a psychiatric facility. It’s a tired storyline and a dated one, and that’s all I have to say about THAT.
Fights for popularity, a private moment uploaded to YouTube, three girls interested in the same guy, a Distant Prologue, a MacGuffin, constantly shifting key players, murder, embezzlement, an execution, THE FREAKY FRIDAY FLIP*, and more! Sure, it’s true that Projection has some flaws, but with enough plotty goodness, I can overlook infodumps about Roman history and some moments of tell-rather-than-show. Overall? Fun stuff.
*Yes, it gets mentioned. Which made me happy.
If she isn't writing Bookshelves of Doom or doing her librarian thing, Leila Roy might be making stuff for her Etsy shop while re-watching Veronica Mars, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Babylon 5, Black Books or Twin Peaks. Well, that or she’s hanging out on Twitter. Or both.