Amy Martin is the author of our Indie Book of the Month, In Your Dreams. Amy took time out of her own schedule to do a guest review of Spookygirl: Paranormal Investigator , by Jill Baguchinsky, for you guys. You can find out more information about Amy Martin on her website.
Spookygirl: Paranormal Investigator by Jill Baguchinsky
Reviewed by Amy Martin
Violet doesn’t remember much about her late mother, but she is certain of one thing: she too can see ghosts and communicate with the dead. But when Violet discovers paranormal activity in the girls’ locker room, she finds herself ill-equipped for handling the school’s ghostly echoes. Through Violet’s own investigation and with the help of some unlikely allies, Violet discovers there is a lot she doesn’t know about her special skill–and more still that can stand in the way of its power. With sharp wit and determination, Violet sets out to uncover the truth behind her school’s haunting, to finish the investigation that led to her mother’s sudden death, and to learn why the only ghost she has ever wanted to see is the one that has eluded her forever.
As a participant in past editions of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest, I try to keep track of when the winning novels make their way into print/ebook. Jill Baguchinsky’s Spookygirl: Paranormal Investigator won in 2011 in the Young Adult category, and I was thrilled to see that the novel had finally been released this past August.
I’m not a huge fan of the paranormal genre, but the book cover and plot outline drew me in. And, I’m happy to say, the writing made me stick around. Violet Addison, a high school sophomore who can both see and communicate with ghosts, is an engaging narrator, and her voice is peppered with just the appropriate amount of snark for someone who’s been through what she has at such a young age. As if seeing dead people weren’t enough, Violet’s had to deal with life without her mother, who died mysteriously during a paranormal investigation, an emotionally closed-off father, who gave up paranormal investigations after losing his wife, an aunt who wants Violet to deny her special skills, and the kids at school, who have labeled her “Spookygirl” not only because she sees ghosts, but also because she and her father live above his funeral home. Baguchinsky does an expert job of creating a main character with a tough exterior whose vulnerability breaks through during some of her life’s more dramatic moments, whether those be expelling spirits from the girls’ locker room, reuniting a Goth girl with her deceased jock secret boyfriend, attempting to complete her parents’ final paranormal investigation, or wrangling Buster, the “pet” poltergeist who lives in her apartment. And you thought you had bad days.
Spookygirl is the kind of book that grabs you as a reader from the first page and doesn’t let go. The story has so much action that you don’t have time for your mind to wander; I finished the book in two marathon sessions, which is a rarity for me. In addition to seamlessly juggling multiple plots and twists, Baguchinsky has created a cast of likeable characters who turn out to be not quite what they seem, including Coach Frucile, the gym teacher from hell who has more in common with Violet than Violet could have ever dreamed; Isobel, the stereotypical Goth Girl who hides a softer side; and Dirk, the dead football player with a secret. Even Tim, the Goth wannabe who befriends Violet on her first day of school, defies reader expectations and becomes Violet’s slightly goofy platonic friend rather than her hopelessly dorky romantic admirer.
At its heart, Spookygirl is family story about a girl facing life without her mother and struggling to be the person she needs and wants to be in the face of her father’s objections. Violet’s relationship with her father is both heartbreaking and real, and Violet is at her most vulnerable in the glimpses readers get of her childhood relationship with her deceased mother. Readers who have lost or been separated from a parent will sympathize with Violet’s struggles to deal with the past and connect with her father (readers learn that Violet was also separated from her father for a time as well, living with her aunt).
Spookygirl is intended to be the first book in a series, and I can’t wait to see what’s in store for Violet, her family, and her friends in the next book. Jill Baguchinsky is an author to keep an eye on, and I dare you to read this book and not want a Buster of your very own.