Tori’s No Rules Friday

Reaper Girl

The problem isn’t that there’s a ghost standing in front of me or that I have to help him move on. I’ve gotten used to that since Jin spared my life and turned me into his ghost-ferrying, soul-reaping apprentice.

The problem is that I know him.

Roger Lowry goes to my school. Or, he did, I guess.

He was in my chemistry class last year. We were lab partners. He’s only seventeen and now he’s dead, his body crumpled over his steering wheel. His ghost is looking at me with the lost expression common of the recently deceased. It’s one they all wear, even before they realize they’re dead.

“My car,” he says, eyes flicking to the tangled mess of metal that used to be his black BMW. “My parents are going to kill me.”

If Jin were here, he’d probably laugh at that. For the first time since I got the text message telling me to go this one alone, I’m almost glad he’s not here. Almost. Except that inside the car I can see far too much mangled flesh for my liking, and I wish I could hang back and let Jin do the dirty work. I’m not squeamish but it’s not pretty. Roger is only seeing the car for the moment, blind to the thing he doesn’t want to see.

“I think they’ll understand,” I say. I’m pretty sure they’re going to have bigger things to worry about.

Roger looks at my car, parked on the shoulder across the street and creases his brow. “Wait,” he says, tilting his head. “What are you doing out here, Drea? You weren’t at Matt’s party.”

It’s a reasonable question. It’s six in the morning on a Saturday in the middle of June. We’re standing on a curved underpass beneath the mostly-empty freeway. I’m wearing clean clothes, jeans and a t-shirt, not the sort of thing that would suggest I just came from an all-night party like Roger did.

Roger’s car slammed headfirst into the cement wall of the underpass, crushing the front so the hood is almost non-existent, meaning he truly lost control. I’m guessing he wasn’t sober. His accident is hidden from the freeway but it’s only a matter of time before someone notices. It’s taking all of my willpower not to dial 9-1-1. It feels wrong not to call the authorities.

Although in a way, I am the authority here. Besides, it’s not like it’ll do Roger any good at this point.

“Just passing by,” I lie.

Roger ignores me, and steps closer to examine the damage. And then it happens: he spots his body. His face contorts, twists into the most pained, awful expression I’ve ever seen. “Is that… Who is that?”

He knows. I watch the realization dawn on him. Having been out of my body for a panicked two minutes once, I know the feeling all too well. But I got a reprieve and he’s not going to.

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Tori’s Book Club 1

maradyercover

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin is the first in a trilogy (the third book, The Retribution of Mara Dyer, will be out in November). It’s a haunting story about a girl who’s dealing with something impossible while the normal world carries on around her. The magical realism grounds the book firmly in our world, which makes the paranormal elements even scarier because they no longer seem so impossible.

I don’t want to spoil things so I’m afraid to say too much. In the beginning, we learn that Mara suffers from PTSD after being in a building that collapses and kills her friend, and everyone–her parents, her brothers, her teachers–think all of her weird experiences are just symptoms. At least, the weird experiences they know about, which is only a fraction of them, because she’s afraid to tell them lest they lock her away in a padded room. At times, even Mara isn’t sure if the stuff she’s seeing or feeling is real or just hallucinations, and she worries maybe she’s lost her mind.

The book is fast-paced although the paranormal elements don’t show immediately. The book starts with a Ouija board, and at first it feels a little hookey (not the book, just the fact that there’s a Ouija board at all because what year is it, 1985?) And of course, it gives Mara and her friends some cryptic message. But I kind of like how it’s presented as ‘lol Ouija boards, right?’ It’s just something people do. (Not really a spoiler, but the reasoning behind its existence makes a lot of sense when we learn things later and can surmise why it was there.) Then Mara and friends visit an old mental hospital that collapses on top of them and only Mara survives. This leaves her with post traumatic stress, a metric ton of survivor’s guilt, and even inspires her whole family to move to Florida to give her a fresh start.

Actually, though, the book opens with her explaining that her lawyer told her to pick a fake name:

My name is not Mara Dyer, but my lawyer told me I had to choose something. A pseudonym. A nom de plume, for all of us studying for the SATs. I know that having a fake name is strange, but trust me—it’s the most normal thing about my life right now. Even telling you this much probably isn’t smart. But without my big mouth, no one would know that a seventeen-year-old who likes Death Cab for Cutie was responsible for the murders. No one would know that somewhere out there is a B student with a body count.

And it’s important that you know, so you’re not next. Rachel’s birthday was the beginning.

This is what I remember.

I mean, how do you not want to keep reading right then and there?

The creepy and scary elements get amped up every chapter, so you never want to put it down. Hodkin writes an engaging teen voice, and Mara is pragmatic, sensible, and a little sarcastic. Also, Noah Shaw. I’m not even going to tell you about him, future reader, just trust me when I say he’s great.

I cannot recommend this series highly enough, even if you think you’re sick of paranormal books or magical realism, because this one is unexpected and captivating. Also, just FYI, the audiobook is excellent! It’s narrated by Christy Romano, who brings Mara to life in a way that completely compliments Hodkin’s clever writing.

“Howl” by Florence + the Machine Inspires Tori

Reunion

It’s only when his fangs scrape against my tongue that the reality of Nathan’s transformation truly hits me. When coppery blood fills the kiss, we both pull back. Nathan extracts himself with a gasp and steps back a few feet, looking at me warily, like I’m the vampire.

I swallow. My mouth tastes like blood.

“Liam,” Nathan says my name, his voice shaky. He looks like he’s ready to bolt, and I can’t have that, not now that I have him back.

“You’re alive,” I say again. I’ve said it ten times, but I can’t quite get it through my head. I’d held out hope, of course–there was no body, and while vampires aren’t known for leaving bodies behind, I’d wanted to believe–but even Nathan’s parents had accepted he was dead. They buried an empty coffin and everything.

Nathan doesn’t move. His brown eyes are colder than they used to be.

“This is an interesting place.” I gesture to the clearing with the dilapidated church and its forgotten little cemetery. The full moon casts a soft blue light that reflects off the headstones. The dead tug at my awareness, trying to pull my attention. I ignore them. When he first appeared, I was afraid Nathan was a ghost, too, just another spirit reaching out to me. I don’t love that he’s a vampire, but as far as dead boyfriends go, a corporeal body is a plus.

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