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Thursday, August 12, 2010

Review: 'Past Midnight'

By Mara Purnhagen
YA paranormal
Harlequin Teen
September 2010
ISBN-13: 978-0-373-21020-6

I know a lot about ghosts. More than the average person and way, way more than any other seventeen-year-old. Except for Jared and Avery, but most of what they know they learned from me this year, when things got crazy. I know a lot about things going crazy, too, thanks to my parents. They're paranormal researchers, and let's just say they like to bring their work home with them. And sometimess, their work follows them home.

For good.
And so begins the tale of Charlotte, a girl who has been moved around by her parents her entire life while they making documentaries debunking ghost stories. Charlotte, about to begin her senior year, is the quiet one of the family. Her more beautiful older sister, Annalise, is the one who has on-camera experience being a trigger for energy that her parents do believe in, even if they don't believe in ghosts.

But when the family checks out a restaurant in Charleston, S.C., it's Charlotte who the energy seeks. That energy will change what everyone in her family has assumed about their life's work.

At the same time, Annalise helps talk their parents into staying in one place long enough for Charlotte to spend her entire senior year at one school -- a first. She makes friends for the first time. And, of course, these friends end up having problems for which Charlotte is particularly well-equipped to help.

Charlotte isn't thrilled about being the trigger. Her reaction goes along with her feelings about her family; she's the outcast. She shows good teenager anger at this abrupt change in how things have always been. But even though she is upset about this, Charlotte and her family are refreshing in their ability to talk to each other about what's bothering them. There is one instance late in the story when this doesn't happen but that, too, is portrayed realistically. Overall, what a pleasure to read about characters who are related to each other and talk to each other without rancor.

The other characters are as likeable as Charlotte's family. Her new friend Avery is a cheerleader who is not a spoiled snot and who is not a mean girl. Bad boy Jared has a secret but it is an honorable thing he is doing, no matter how badly it is hurting him. Even the mean girl at school is an interesting character who has the potential to be more than a one-note irritant. And there are nice geeky guys with hearts of gold.

Mara Purnhagen has crafted a well-paced story in which things move along. The reader is not subjected to going over the same basic dilemma over and over again. Instead. she has presented in Charlotte a young woman who is coming into her own. She doesn't have to reject her family to find her own way, nor does she have to abandon anyone who was important to her before in order to welcome more people into her life. The subplot of what happened to her new friends before she arrived works well within the scope of how Charlotte's life is changing.

The only drawback to this paranormal is that Charlotte discovers information about that energy in Charleston through dreams. This seems a cheat compared to everything else that happens. This drawback is more than compensated by the story's strengths. This includes the fact that, just when it appears that a secondary character may not be trustworthy, Purnhagen doesn't go there. And it works.

As the story progresses, nearly every character, especially the adults, have to question what they thought was so. At least one refuses to do so. This also is handled very reasonably. And, because the series is set to continue, it's also terrific that everything is not wrapped up like the end of a half hour sitcom.

It's going to be fun to read what happens next to Charlotte, her family and friends in the upcoming One Hundred Candles next March and Beyond the Grave next September.

© 2010 All Rights Reserved Reviews at CompuServe Books and reprinted with permission

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