Originally reviewed here
.Why I Read It:
I received an unsolicited finished copy of this from Random House Canada.
I had next to no idea what this book was actually about before I started reading it. I figured it had *something* to do with ghosts because I did know it was about a girl who died, but other than that, I knew zilch. Well, I have to say that this book defied many of my expectations.
Okay, so, we have Ashlyn who slowly figures out that she's dead and that actually has no memory of when she was alive. And for some unknown reason her 'spirit' seems to be attached to some guy named Breckon. Breckon's hurting really bad because his six year old sister has recently died and he feels like it's his fault. The narrative follows these two characters through alternately first-person POV chapters.
Right when Breckon was introduced, I was convinced that Ashlyn was going to be his dead girlfriend or something. So I was sort of pleasantly surprised to find that she wasn't, that the two of them actually had little to no connection at all. Actually, I became kind of frustrated with the novel because I wanted to know WHY Ashlyn's spirit would be connected to Breckon at all, and the novel didn't offer any answers until the very, very end.
While Ashlyn does play an important role in this story and we DO find out about her life while she was alive, this still felt more like Breckon's story. I was much more invested in his story of trying to learn to forgive himself and heal from his sister's passing than I ever was with Ashlyn's chapters, even the ones that described important and scarring events in her life. I think this can be attributed to the fact that Breckon's story is much more visceral. His emotions hit harder and the actions that he takes to try to avoid the pain are painful (he commits self-harm, which could potentially be triggering for some [it was for me]). I still liked Ashlyn's story, and I think the novel would have been lacking without her half, but I was more emotionally invested in Breckon.
Before reading Martin, I had heard of her because of her debut novel I Know It's Over
which was largely well-received because of Martin's ability to write authentically from a male perspective. After reading this book and Breckon's perspective, I can see where this praise is coming from. Breckon's perspective was definitely different from Ashlyn, and though I'm hesitant to describe this difference solely on gender, there was definitely something about it that screamed "TEENAGE BOY". One scene that comes to mind is when Breckon is looking at his girlfriend in the grocery store and finds himself becoming horny (something he hasn't felt since his sister died). It felt so quintessentially GUY-like without feeling cliched and stupid and was oddly touching (haha) because it felt like Breckon was finally healing or something.
What I'm saying is, Martin can obviously write well.
The only thing that kept me from LOVING this book was that honestly, this isn't my type of story. I'm not very interested in the Lovely Bones
-esque stories where we watch ghost/spirit people watch the living world after they're dead (though I grant an exception to One For Sorrow
). This one was thankfully out of the box a bit and escaped some of the tropes that plague these "post-death" novels, but it's not going to be sitting on my 'favourite' shelf either.Final Verdict:
This was a "post-death" novel that escaped some of the tropes of those that came before it, and for that I was thankful. While I was more interested and invested in Brekcon's story, Ashlyn was still an integral part to the novel and raised it above the usual 'contemporary novel that deals with death' fair. Martin is a good writer and obviously has a good handled in a male POV, as well as writing emotions and actions with a visceral edge. I *felt* the sadness that these characters felt and I really wanted Breckon to just be okay. While I sing these praises though, this novel still isn't a 'favourite' for me, but that's largely due to my lack of investment in Ashlyn's story; like I said, it was integral but I wasn't as embroiled in it as Breckon's. Still though, it was a good read.