Rating: 3.5 stars
Source: LibraryThing Early Reviewers
Genre: YA fiction; Mystery/Thriller
Published: by Oxford University Press in January 2011
The Synopsis (taken from Waterstones.com)
Last Chance ...'You know that girl, the one in my class? The one that died. She lived here.'
Lost Chance ...'You're dead, Eva Chance. You died and nobody noticed. You died and nobody cared.'
No more Chances left ...
They said it was suicide, but Eva knows she was murdered. Now she inhabits a sinister spirit world along with the tortured and malevolent ghosts of her ancestral home. Solving the crime could end her existence - but if the killer isn't found how many more will die?
Ah, this book reminded me so much of my first reading experiences that I couldn't help but love it. When I was much younger and had read more of The Babysitters' Club and Sweet Valley High than was probably healthy, I turned to the somewhat darker Goosebumps series by R.L.Stine, including such classics as Say Cheese and Die and Monster Blood. Anyone else read this? No? Just me then...
What I loved about those books, and indeed this one, was the unashamed use of the supernatural. I'm sure I've made this point before but I respect authors who will weave the supernatural into a story so tightly that it just seems to belong, rather than wasting time on characters who don't want to believe etc or worrying about whether the book is 'realistic'. The ghosts in this book are exactly that. Eva finds herself a ghost despite having no recollection at all about how she died. Rather than spending endless pages pondering the nature of the soul or not believing her predicament, there's good balance and timing for the phasing of reluctance into acceptance.
One strong point is Lassiter's expansion on what could have been a cheesy ghost theme. The ghosts of the House are varied and unique. Some ghosts were nothing more than a single feature, like 'The Stalker' that has nothing but the desire to kill other ghosts, while others retain their personalities and 'grip' on the world, like Eva. I found myself drawn into the tangled web of the ghosts in spite of myself and felt like that made it more than normal.
Obviously I couldn't review this book without mentioning Eva. Eva Chance is a social outcast and something of a recluse. Bullied by her schoolmates, she has all but retreated to the House. Her aching loneliness tugged at even my old heartstrings and it reminded me of all the harsh points about being a teenager. Eva's family and its history (which is suitably tortured...) make for great back story too.
Outside of the Chance family are Kyle and Kyra, employed to spruce the House up in time for the tourist season. Kyle is kind of sweet and features nicely as a 'white knight' type figure. Kyra, however, was a weak link for me. She is Eva's nemesis, so much as teenagers can have nemeses and is actually rather irritating to read. She is everything a stereotypical teenage character shouldn't be - arrogant, rude, ignorant and a bully. Still, her ability to annoy is dampened by the curiosities of those around her so it's not all bad!
The mystery element plays nicely alongside the ghost story and make for a tale worthy of any teenager's time. My only real criticism was that the ending (that I obviously won't give away) was a little too convenient for my taste. I would guess, however, that that is largely as a result of it being a story for younger readers so I won't grumble too much.
A final noteworthy point: I stayed up late because I had to read the end of this book. To anyone who knows me, this is high praise indeed. I require at least 7-8 hours of sleep a night or I am unfit for polite society. With this, I was gripped and tugged on into the darkness by that same urge that kept the teenage me huddled under a duvet turning pages feverishly. I accept that it might have been an exercise in reminiscing but golly it was fun!
Overall: I would definitely recommend this to early-late teens looking for something a bit more mature and (I'll admit it) creepy! It's very much a 'YA' book but a great one for the genre that offers something new in a paranormal sphere dominated by vampires and werewolves - I won't be passing it on to the adults in my life but I'll almost definitely give my copy to a younger cousin at some point for her to enjoy as an introduction to something new. Read it late at night for maximum "enjoyment"!