Notes From Ghost TownFeatured
After her mother's incarceration, Olivia must move on, but she hates her father's new fiancée, Heather, and with her dad's new real estate development (she calls it Ghost Town) in the works, she barely sees him. But a new boy, Austin, has kindled feelings inside her that she hasn't felt since Stern's death.
Arriving at the same time as this new guy is a mysterious note that brings Stern's murder back to the forefront; Olivia knows that she must discover the truth behind her friend's death once and for all.
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.
The main reason I love reading mystery and thriller novels is that they have a lot of spooky, unpredictable scenes. I did like this book more than I did Hysteria, the last similar book I’ve read but there was still something missing and that is the excitement of finally finding out who is the murderer which Notes From Ghost Town didn’t have. Sure, we find out who killed Olivia’s first crush but it wasn’t as gripping as I hoped.
So, first of, the main character is not annoying, which is a huge plus. She does ignore her best friend a lot . Olivia’s stepsister is the most adorable character I’ve come across this year. The new love interest, Austin, a rich an popular guy is also entertaining. For most of the part I think he kept Olivia from spending any more time alone. He got her out of her comfort zone.
I liked the book itself; the writing style was entertaining and didn’t bore me at all. I just wished it had a twist of two. It was a little bit too predictable for my taste. Still, a decent read.
General notice: in the end, Notes from Ghost Town did win me over, and I enjoyed this book. However, I didn’t like this as much as Ellison’s debut, and I would have liked to see something edgier and less “safe” than this book turned out to be. But I did like it.
The problem, initially, was that I was confused out of my mind. I couldn’t tell what the progression of time was, and subsequently, I couldn’t decide if what I was reading happened before or after another scene. The first ten chapters or so were self-contained points in time, and I had trouble connected the dots. A little less than 50% into the book, Ellison found her groove and things began to make sense to me, though it was rather impossible for her to recover from the awkward opening chapters.
Notes from Ghost Town is narrated by Olivia, whose best friend, Stern, was killed by her schizophrenic mother. Except Olivia thinks her mom didn’t do it, so, with the help of not-so-bad bad boy Austin, she does some snooping of her own in order to clear her mom’s name. And…that’s basically the whole story, really. Stern’s ghost plays a fairly major role, and there was a cheesy “don’t walk into the light” scene in the end, but it wasn’t anything new to me. I was honestly pretty disappointed by how unremarkable this book’s plot is; it’s predictible, cliché, and probably unmemorable. Don’t get me wrong—I liked it and enjoyed the second half quite a bit, but this entire production felt very formulaic and dull to me. The budding romance with Austin, for example, followed a cookie-cutter routine: girl hates boy but is convinced into dating boy, boy and girl like each other, turns out boy is hiding something, girl is mad at being lied to and sends him away, boy apologizes and the two strike a truce, then boy and girl kiss. Been there, done that, times a jillion.
Also noticeably lacking from this book was the exceptionally memorable prose that was so present in The Butterfly Clues. While I wouldn’t say this book is badly written or in need of revision, I wasn’t wowed in the same way I was with Ellison’s debut. Quite disappointing.
On the good side, though, I did enjoy Olivia’s character a lot. I thought she was realistic and relatable, dealing with her mom as a mentally impaired murderer and her dad’s remarriage. I really love how authors and publishers are taking notice that readers really appreciate the incorporation of family dynamics into YA books, and Notes from Ghost Town is a novel that does a really great job with that whole issue.
And even though the ghostly elements were pretty standard and brought nothing new to the game, I do think they worked well in a cheesy “get over your first love” sort of way. (Actually, if one combined Cold Kiss with a murder mystery, you’d have this book down pat.)
Mostly, I feel that Kate Ellison took the safe bet in writing Notes from Ghost Town. It wasn’t a bad book, but it was formulaic and predictable. I liked it, still, but I hope this author’s next novel break standard YA molds a bit better than this did.