Monday, February 13, 2006

18. "A Certain Slant of Light" ~ Laura Whitcomb

Helen has been haunting several human "hosts" for the past 150 years. Her latest, Mr. Brown, is a high school English teacher. During class, she realizes a student can see her, and their subsequent relationship reveals a deeper meaning to love, death, truth, and desire.

Whitcomb's first novel is stunning in its prose. It's lyrical enough to believe that Helen comes from a poetic background (the title is from Emily Dickinson). As she begins to fall in love with James, a ghost inhabiting the body of an 18-year-old, the delicacy of their ancient forms of courting collide with modern desire, as well as their desperation for each other - the only ones who know what it's like to live so lonely for another.

As a young adult novel, it pushes many boundaries, which makes me give kudos to the author. There are messed up families, drugs, suicides, statuatory rape, sex, and the requisite pregnancy. Tastefully done, reminding me of Judy Blume's, Tiger Eyes.

However, the relationship between Helen and James seemed forced, that just because they were the only "ghosts" they could fall in love without much more knowledge than each other's names. The logistics of body-hopping left some avenues open; for example, the ghosts can feel if there is something evil living in someone's body, yet other than lending one scene to this description, it unravels in the plot.

Edgy and romantic, it will keep several teenaged girls awake past their parents, sneaking peeks at the pages that create tingles and dreams of first love and lust.

3.5 out of 5.0 Afterglows.

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