Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Review: The Haunting of Sunshine Girl by Paige McKenzie

Title: The Haunting of Sunshine Girl
Author: Paige McKenzie, Nick Hagen, and Alyssa Sheinmel
Publication Date: March 24, 2015
Target Age Group: YA
My Rating: 5 out of 5

Book Description (from Amazon)

Shortly after her sixteenth birthday, Sunshine Griffith and her mother, Kat, move from sunny Austin, Texas, to the rain-drenched town of Ridgemont, Washington. Though Sunshine is adopted, she and her mother have always been close, sharing a special bond filled with laughter and inside jokes. But from the moment they arrive, Sunshine feels her world darken with an eeriness she cannot place. And even if Kat doesn't recognize it, Sunshine knows that something about their new house is just... creepy.

On their first night in Ridgemont, Sunshine is awakened by the sound of footsteps coming from above, followed by a child's ghostly laughter. In the days that follow, things just get more frightening. But Kat seems oblivious to the terror, insisting that Sunshine's imagination is getting the best of her. Determined to prove her mother wrong, Sunshine begins taking photographs, desperate to catch evidence of the supernatural presence. At her new school, Sunshine meets Nolan Porter, a cute - if slightly bookish - classmate. Nolan also has a passion for photography - and, more importantly, for ghosts. He offers to help Sunshine figure out exactly what's going on.

What they uncover is a story that's much bigger and runs deeper than they could have imagined. She can hardly believe it, but as the spirits haunting her house become stranger - and it becomes clear that Kat is in danger - Sunshine learns that everything she thought she knew about her past has been wrong.

My Review

This is a newly acquired book from Book Expo America 2015 book. Many thanks to BEA and to the authors for the opportunity to review it before its release.

First, before I get into the book review, I just wanted to say it was awesome meeting Paige McKenzie at BEA 2015 this year, not only because she's co-written an amazing story - with Alyssa Sheinmel and Nick Hagen - but she was probably the most enthusiastic new writer I've ever seen at BEA. I wish her loads more success in her career.

This book is yet another great, creepy story I've acquired at BEA this year. For that reason alone, I love this book.

At first glance, this book may seem like another run-of-the-mill ghost story. And on the surface, it is. Girl moves into a house, house is haunted, girl can see ghosts. Probably been done loads of times. Yet, it hasn't. This book seems to take these old tropes and create something new with it. A new mythology involving ghosts and their goings-on after they've left the land of the living. Paige McKenzie and company have created a bunch of rules for this particular ghost world, and they're pretty cool. They've also created a new mythology for the main character, Sunshine, and her ghostly powers that involve communicating with, and assisting, the dead.

One of the biggest stand-out features of this book is the use of water. Sunshine moves from sunny Austin, Texas, to the gloomy climate of Ridgemont, Washington, where it always seems to be raining. As events get stranger and more menacing for Sunshine in her new home, the water level in her life starts to figuratively, and literally, rise. Great symbolism, since water can be symbolic of death, or of formless things (i.e. ghosts). 

Water may also symbolize change, which is another recurring theme of the story. Sunshine's life is in the midst of change. Everything she knows about her life is turned on its head by the end of the story. She's suddenly unsure about her relationship with her mother, her surroundings, her history, and even who to trust around her, whether living or dead.

To me (and maybe I'm reading too much into this), this story also seems to be a great analogy of a child and a parent and how they can lose their way during a child's teenaged years. Kat, Sunshine's mother, begins to act strangely after they've moved into their new house, and yes, there's a supernatural element behind all of it, but it also illustrates how teenagers and their parents often seem to get disconnected. For that reason, this book is also a great coming-of-age type of story, in its own weird, spooky way. 

I could go on, but I'll let you readers see for yourselves how great this book is. Pick this one up, especially all you lovers of supernatural YA. You won't regret it!

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