Feb 10, 2009: At 5 chapters, “Stalking Shadows” has the beginnings of a really good young adult novel about a teenager with a talent for talking to ghosts. It’s the sequel to “Scary Mary” and has the same cast of characters, with a few new ones added to stir the pot. It’s fun to read, with well-drawn characters, and a plot that’s ramping up nicely. Mary’s high school nemesis, Vicky, is in a coma and demanding Mary’s help to get out. Something is keeping Vicky in the coma, something Mary has never come across before.
This is a sequel, and the author suggests on her web site that readers start with the first book. I haven’t read “Scary Mary” yet so I’m sure I missed a lot of the undercurrents and backstory, but so far the story stands up very well on its own. The author sprinkles in enough references to let you know that there is a first book, but you also get enough details to figure things out and enjoy the second book. I’ll probably go back and read “Scary Mary” now because if it’s a good as this story is so far, I’ve missed something special.
Mary is a typical high school student; good at some classes, bored in others, trying to survive. She has friends, “enemies”, a guy she likes, and a guy who likes her. There’s enough drama and angst to feel real, but not enough to make you cringe. Mary and her best friend Rachel both have a great sense of humour, and their bantering adds a lot of fun to the story. Plus, Mary wants to use her gifts to help people, even the “vapid cheerleader” who hates her, and who Mary can’t stand. Rachel is gung-ho to help Mary battle the forces of darkness, even though it means asking Rachel’s Mom for help.
Mary lives with her Gran and a ghost dog named Chowder. So far Gran sounds like a grey-haired version of the Ghost Whisperer, but a lot more cool. Chowder hasn’t let death stop him from enjoying fetch and car rides. He’s usually invisible but sometimes uses a body, something that wasn’t too clear but was probably explained in the first book. It was fun watching Gran and Mary visit her clients and trying to arbitrate between the haunter and the haunted. All the characters felt real, even the dead ones.
The writing is light but really good, making this one of those young adult novels that adults can also enjoy. The story moves along fairly quickly with lots of dialog and action. There was some great imagery that only a teenager would come up with, and there were problems that would only be problems for teenagers. There is the mystery of what is attacking Vicky and holding her in the coma, too. Mary faces all this while trying to stay awake in class and have a life.
So far “Stalking Shadows” is a really fun novel that continues the story of Mary, a high school junior who can hear dead people. I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys fantasy or ghost stories, but particularly to those who, like me, still feel young enough to love young adult books.
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