Absent by Katie Williams
(Description nicked from B&N.com.)
“When seventeen-year-old Paige dies in a freak fall from the roof during Physics class, her spirit is bound to the grounds of her high school. At least she has company: her fellow ghosts Evan and Brooke, who also died there. But when Paige hears the rumor that her death wasn’t an accident—that she supposedly jumped on purpose—she can’t bear it. Then Paige discovers something amazing. She can possess living people when they think of her, and she can make them do almost anything. Maybe, just maybe, she can get to the most popular girl in school and stop the rumors once and for all.”
Ah, the joys of Barnes and Noble’s Daily Find feature. Occasionally, a real gem sneaks in there that you’d never even heard of. In this case, the $1.99 deal on Absent coaxed me into buying it, and I’m quite glad that I did.
I found it interesting how the author uses Paige to be the outside view on high school culture, and yet still keeping her as someone who was deep enough into it to understand it. Paige was neither popular nor unpopular, having some friends, and one really good friend. She’s established as being observant enough to clue into the various cliques and groups in the school. And of course, as the synopsis hints, there’s a lot of focus on the typical teen rumor mill, zeroing in on how Paige died.
Most of the story’s conflict is internal: Paige desperately wants her named cleared of the stain of suicide, Brooke’s reputation is tarnished as well, and Evan is in danger of being forgotten. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that there’s no antagonist in this tale, though, because there most definitely is. Keep a sharp eye out and you may spot what’s going on, but Williams did a good job at misdirecting readers until the last moment.
Williams also did some neat things with ghost mythology. She explores how ghosts can possess people, what the possessed person feels (or doesn’t feel), and the limits of a ghost’s power to move around. It has enough grounding in common mythos to give it a solid base, but it also has enough unique aspects to feel fresh and interesting.
This novel is on the short side of the page count, but the author packs in a lot of story. The pace doesn’t slacken, but neither does it race forward with no breathers—there’s always something to ponder, something to mentally chew on as more and more information about our main character comes out. I read this book in the span of a single afternoon and evening, and it wasn’t entirely due to the length. I got very drawn in by the story and didn’t want to put it down.
Absent may not be one of the popular teen novels being pushed on the public nowadays, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore it. This one is a hidden gem, or perhaps a shy little spirit waiting in the corner for you to notice it. While away a lazy afternoon with this book and you’ll be just as charmed as I was.