Thursday, January 5, 2012

Deception (Haunting Emma #1) by Lee Nichols

Publisher: Bloomsbury Teens
Pages: 330
Series or Stand Alone: Book 1 in the Haunting Emma trilogy
SummaryWhen Emma Vaile's parents leave on mysterious business trip, it gives her the perfect excuse to be a rebellious teen. Throw some parties, get a tattoo (or maybe just a piercing), and enjoy the first few weeks of her junior year. Then her best friend stops talking to her, the cops crash her party, and Emma finds herself in the hands of a new guardian—her college-age "knight in J.Crew armor," Bennett Stern—and on a plane to his museum-like mansion in New England. After enrolling at Thatcher Academy, Emma settles in by making friends with the popular legacy crowd. But she can't shake the strange visions that are haunting her. She has memories of Thatcher she can't explain, as if she's returning home to a place she's never been. Emma doesn't trust anyone anymore—except maybe Bennett. But he's about to reveal a ghostly secret to Emma. One that will explain the visions . . . and make Emma fear for her life.


I'm not going to lie, I read this book because when I first heard of it, it was recommended for fans of the Private series by Kate Brian. Even though by the end of that series I was SO ANNOYED by those books (WHO INTRODUCES MAGIC TWELVE BOOKS INTO A SERIES?!) I still believe that the first four, even the first eight, were entertaining reads. I decided to take the suggestion and read the Haunting Emma books.
This book opens on Emma Vaile, a teenager experiencing every teenager's dream: a vacant house due to parental vacation. Everything's fine and dandy for awhile, but eventually she starts to miss them. Due to a rager she throws at the request of her "friend" Natalie, Emma almost ends up in foster care. Thanks to Bennett, a former friend of her older brother, she instead ends up living in a mansion under his "care"--clear across the country from her home. Bennett disappears on her and leaves her to discover her ghostkeeping ability with a house full of friendly ghosts. Unlike most ghostkeepers, Emma has multiple powers--she actually has all the ghostkeeping abilities, wrapped up nicely in her little blonde form. Throughout the story, Emma must deal with her newfound ghostkeeping abilities, the knowledge of the host of secrets her family kept from her, an evil that has been a threat to her since childhood--and her mounting feelings for Bennett, who confusingly enough, runs hot and cold on her.
I really liked the ghostkeeping mythology that Nichols outlined in this book. My favorite piece of it was the idea that ghostkeepers cannot be together unless one of them wants to sacrifice their powers. I enjoyed that ghosts were not the romantic interests of the spirit variety--that meant that there was far less paranormal romance-y nonsense with which to contend.
I also liked the idea that ghosts and ghostkeepers were not looked at as equal (but different) human beings. Emma was the only one that treated the ghosts in Bennett's house as if they were still human beings because she was the only one that could directly communicate with them. The rest could only compel them. She dislikes compelling them, since she believes that ghosts should retain their free will.
And now for some things that did not thrill me about this book. Emma’s voice bothered me a tiny bit. In the beginning she was effortlessly teenager-y—she wasted time on facebook, talked about how bitchin’ it was to not have parents around, etc. I realized a bit later that her voice was leaving something lacking. I just did not think some of the events were making enough of an emotional impact through Emma’s eyes. Within the first book of this series, Emma’s family goes missing and is presumed dead. She deals with two separate deaths of people that are close to her in her new life. Emma cried every once in awhile, but I felt that she would all but forget about the incidents a few chapters later. This is especially true for Emma’s parents’ disappearances; she mentions missing them once or twice, but not enough for me to really believe her.
Also, I know Bennett’s supposed to be swoonworthy or whatever, but I don’t feel like he has enough personality for that. Let me rephrase: I did not see enough personality for that. I hope Nichols explores more of his characters in the ensuing novels.
I have mixed feelings about Deception—Nichols has some great, unique ideas about ghost stories, but the writing is choppy. I felt like Emma was glossing over some of the action in order to prattle on about nothing important Still, the ideas were there, and I plan to continue reading the series in order to see how the characters (hopefully) develop.

Rating: 2.5 - okay.

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