Friday, July 5, 2013
Review: Spookygirl: Paranormal Investigator by Jill Baguchinsky
Stats: Young Adult Paranormal, 256 pages, First Published by Dutton Juvenile, August 2012.
My Rating: 3 Stars
Spookygirl: Paranormal Investigator is an easy to read standalone novel in the much beloved genre of teen-girl-sees-ghosts. If that's something you love then this should be a no brainer from the concept alone. I wasn't surprised that I ended up enjoying Spookygirl, but I feel like I can't totally praise it. There were a lot of things in the story that could have been improved upon that I'll be mentioning in this review, but these things didn't really affect my enjoyment because this delivered what I was looking for.
Spookygirl impressed me right off the bat with it's unique take on ghost mythos. The plot is centred around Violet and her first foray into paranormal investigation. In this world paranormal investigation takes on a more legitimate spin then the "reality" TV shows I normally relate the term to. In Spookygirl it's a combination of Ghostbuster science and medium abilities. Not all ghosts are created equal and being able to see them doesn't come with a vast understanding of what they are, what they can do, or why they do it, which makes room for the classic voice recordings, temperature gauging, and EMF readings. I found this concept really interesting and would love to see more ghost YA take on the paranormal investigator angle.
Over the course of the story Violet has a lot of interesting ghost encounters of a vast variety. We have everything from the jock who's back from the dead, to the killer in the haunted mansion, to the ghost that just loves it's squeaky hamburger, to cemetery ghosts, to violent locker-room hauntings. There is a lot of ghostly action! Although it may sound over-crowded, each encounter worked well in the story and kept things moving. This is mostly because the writing knew how to handle it. Although I wasn't always a huge fan of the themes in the book (more on that later) Baguchinsky's writing was very engaging, especially for a debut. I'll definitely be on the look out for whatever she writes next!
Something else that I give Baguchinsky some major credit for is that Violet is a teenage girl who sees ghost, but doesn't fall in love with one! YAY! It's a very nice change of pace to have a YA novel almost devoid of romance, where the main character doesn't for a second think about boys, and instead focuses on more pressing issues. This only makes Violet a better character. Despite having all the social worries most teenagers do, she wishes to embrace her abilities more so than hide them. Although she's not a huge fan of the spotlight she isn't afraid or ashamed of her "Spookygirl" status. It was refreshing to not have a character constantly trying to hide or lie about being able to see ghosts. She's not worried about fitting in when she knows that what makes her special is a good thing. It makes her a stand out among these sort of characters.
Even though I enjoyed Spookygirl it for what it is, there are things that should be noted for the prospective reader on the negative side of the spectrum.
For all it's originality, Spookygirl can come across as rather standard. The characters and plot lines are all pretty predicable and the lack of ghostly rules are sometimes used for convenience sake. This wasn't a problem for me because I went into this expecting something light and easy, but for people looking for something more this might not be it.
The overall theme on the book was one of my pet peeves. This is very much a representation of those high schools where the jocks and cheerleaders are evil and the outcasts are just so darn special because of reasons. It was all rather stereotypical and they were only ever used as characters for Violet and friends to hate rather than anything interesting. These jock characters garner so much scorn, despite only collectively having a estimated total of six or seven lines of dialogue... and one cheerleader's name is Cherry.
(Side note: When people wonder why athletes look down on reading, one may be able to make the argument that it's because they're generally represented as one-dimensional and evil. The book had more sympathy with a murdering ghost than the popular crowd. ... I'm just saying.)
The only real complaint I have was the occasional sense of deja vu, which I found to be a bit distracting at first. If your a fan of the genre and you've read the Mediator series by Meg Cabot recently, you may have a similar experience when comparing The Mediator's Suze and Spookygirl Violet. I love both of their characters, but it would be very easy to confuse one for the other. Which can be seen as either a good thing or a bad thing.
But these are all minor nick-picks. With all that being said, Spookygirl: Paranormal Investigator should be a go-to for fans of the teen girl sees ghosts genre. It was a lovely read that would, indeed, be an great follow up for fans of the Mediator series (Shadowland) or The Ghost and the Goth and are looking for more of the same.
SPECIAL NOTE: According to Baguchinsky's blog she states: "Although it is slated as the first volume of the Riley Island Paranormal series, it stands on its own as a complete story." I would like to say I would totally read a second book!!