On the surface, this is a ghost story, but in reality this is a heartbreaking, hopeful, and often insightful look at the things that can break us and what it takes to get better. The author combines deft prose with a modern voice to bring a haunting journey into a mental breakdown to life. As the story progresses and Olivia becomes more and more confused about what is real and what is not, I began to feel desperate and off-kilter too. I found myself questioning everything and everyone. This is certainly a book that will keep a reader's interest from the first page to the last.
I also thoroughly enjoyed the setting. The author brings Miami to life in vivid sensory detail. I could see the heat shimmering off the pavement, hear the crash of the ocean's waves, and smell the heavy scent of sunscreen and flowers that hung in the air. The author used that same accomplished attention to detail to bring each character to vivid life as well. I simply can't overstate how beautiful the writing is. It was a treat to read it.
Finally, I really enjoyed the heroine Olivia. She's smart, creative, and strong in ways she doesn't always recognize. She's also terrified of becoming like her mother and when that fear rules her, she makes some big mistakes. I found myself wanting her to succeed, wanting her to prove that she wasn't insane, and wanting her to have a happily ever after.
What Left Me Wanting More:
I figured out the mystery much earlier than Olivia, and I wasn't scared for her even when I think I was supposed to be. I'll add the caveat that I really love horror and psychological suspense, so I may be harder to scare than the average reader. I think this is a fabulous ghost/mystery for YA readers who love a little bit of suspense but don't want to have trouble sleeping later. And, as I said in the beginning of the review, I don't think the point of this story is the ghost. The point is to examine how we can be damaged and hurt and yet still rise to the surface and find hope.
NOTES FROM GHOST TOWN is a compelling story, equal parts heartbreaking and hopeful, that will keep readers hooked from page one.