Thursday, October 22, 2009

Review: Ruined by Paula Morris

I am a colossal coward. I don't like to be scared. I don't like otherwordly things in my reading. They are almost never portents of anything good or happy or positive. And yet when I was offered this book with the telling subtitle of A Ghost Story, there was something about it that kept me from turning it down immediately. Even more surprisingly, I eventually decided to take a chance on it. To push the boundaries not only of my preferences, but of what my psyche could take. Because when I've pushed myself before, I have woken in the middle of the night with raging nightmares. But somehow, this book didn't trigger the self-preservation thing with me and I took the chance.

Rebecca's father must leave for China so he sends her to New Orleans to live with an old family friend and her daughter. Rebecca is not happy about this at all. Wny is she being ripped from all that is comfortable and familiar and thrust into life in post-Katrina New Orleans with an eccentric friend of her father and late mother? She's being sent to a snobbish all-girls' school where she certainly doesn't fit in, finding it difficult, even impossible, to make friends. So despite her "aunt" Claudia's admonition to stay away from Lafayette Cemetery, when she sees some of the mean girls from school and the sons of the scions of New Orleans society entering the grounds one night, she doesn't stop to consider and obey. She follows them.

Once inside the cemetery, almost caught spying on the group she's followed, she meets and speaks with a young girl, Lisette. Captivated by this girl, she wants to find her again and to become friends even after she realizes that Lisette is a ghost. Soon Rebecca is juggling an exploration of New Orleans through Lisette's eyes with the potential interest of one of the boys she'd followed on her initial foray into Lafayette Cemetery.

Through the ghost character of Lisette, Morris is able to weave a fictional history for a New Orleans family, bringing echoes of the real past to life without seeming as if she is determined to get all of her background research into the novel. Setting the book to culminate with Mardi Gras helps to bring to the forefront some of the more sinister elements of New Orleans' early history and to enhance the growing tension in the novel. Rebecca as a character is completely in the dark about all the machinations that seethe under the surface of polite society and her naivete, compassion, and generousity set her apart from the other major players in the book. She is, in essence, both main character and foil.

The narrative picks up speed towards the end and the impending menace almost comes too quickly for the story to be satisfying. Rebecca's understanding of the events that came to pass seems to be slight and even I, as the reader, re-read the last bits to make certain I didn't misinterpret what I thought had happened. So the ending was more rushed than I would have liked but the pacing change was necessary to ratchet up the tension so perhaps there was no other way to end it other than in a flurry. I was surprised that I enjoyed this as much as I did and even more pleased that I didn't suffer even one nightmare. It is a YA title but certainly adults who enjoy ghost stories or stories set in New Orleans will enjoy this as well.

Thanks to Dina at Big Honcho Media for sending me a copy of this book for review.

1 comment:

  1. Probably the cover! For some reason I love the cover to this book. :)


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