Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Absent by Katie Williams

Williams, Katie. Absent. San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 05/21/13. Print. 

3 Word Book Talk: Ghost Rumor Revenge

Annotation: If you died before your time and found life on the other side as a ghost, perpetually stuck in the purgatory of high school, what would you do with your days? Is there a way out of there? What if you were a suicide?

Review: How involved could it be in just under 200 pages, I thought? I tend to prefer the meatier books, the ones with 300-400 pages that have time to get somewhere before they are over. Boy, was I wrong here. May I venture to say that it is a sign of true genius to create a story that is, all at once, mystery, meta-physical, clique-crossing, revenge, love, empathy for fellow human being, greater understanding of human nature, coming-of-age, coming-of-death, coming-of-soul story?

Williams begins Absent with three teenage ghosts (really!) wandering endlessly around the high school where they died, trying to come to terms with not being able to do anything to affect the status quo, which is for them, not about being dead so much as about what other students are saying about them. Talk about endless purgatory, right? 

What makes Absent special is the truly fantastic writing, many lines are so good they are quotable. But what's also great is the deep characterizations of the three ghosts. You think it's just creative license stolen by Williams to throw three deaths in the same high school at you, just so she has a story with someone else for the protagonist to talk to. Not so. This is what brings me to the truly shining bit: the plotting. The fact that right when you don’t realize you’re getting somewhere, all at once it is like, SHAZAM! There is a deep mystery thriller here right under your nose. As well as a coming-to-terms-with-who-you-are-even-though-you-are-now-dead tale of discovery, shock, redemption, and finally, transcendence.

In under 200 pages.

Seriously brilliant.

genres: mystery / metaphysical / paranormal / ghosts / death / grief / suicide / contemporary / romance / coming-of-age / ya fiction

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