Paige is seventeen, and she’s dead. She died in a freak fall from the roof of her high school during a Physics class, and now she’s stuck within the boundaries of her high school. She’s not alone, though: two other ghosts, both former students, are also trapped there. Evan and Brooke are the only people she can talk to and interact with until she discovers that she can possess living people when they think of her. This comes in handy when she hears the rumor that she jumped on purpose. It becomes Paige’s mission to change the minds of the living–because there’s no way she’d jump on purpose.
This slim novel by Katie Williams has the illusion of being another paranormal YA novel, but it’s got surprising depth and staying power. Moody, thought-provoking, and never easy, this story takes a thorough look at life through the eyes of an adolescent who’s been dealt a raw deal. Great writing, memorable characters, and a truly riveting conclusion make this one a must-read.
It’s interesting to note that although this will likely get shelved as paranormal, it’s actually much closer to magical realism. The boundaries of what Paige and her ghost cohorts can do constantly changes as the story progresses. It’s grounded in a reality that feels so authentic, you can almost feel the presence of Paige next to you as you turn the pages.
Memorable characters make this a standout from others in the genre. The book takes stereotypes and largely subverts them, all while pushing the envelope with what it means to adhere to a stereotype, and how culpable we are in reinforcing them. None of the characters are what they seem to be at first glance, and that makes this story all the more interesting.
Tightly written, Williams’s prose is perfect in that it conveys just enough complexity to keep things interesting but doesn’t get bogged down in lengthy descriptions. A moving finale will keep readers’ eyes glued to the page. I cried hard at the end but felt wholly satisfied.
Absent by Katie Williams. Chronicle Books: 2013. ARC won in blog giveaway.