A Certain Slant of Light by Laura Whitcomb (2005)
Young Adult Fiction, 288 pages
Graphia Books an Imprint of Houghton Mifflin Co.
Read for the Triple 8 Challenge
In the class of the high school English teacher she has been haunting, Helen feels them: For the first time in 130 years, human eyes are looking at her. They belong to a boy, a boy who has not seemed remarkable until now. And Helen–terrified, but intrigued–is drawn to him. The fact that he is in a body and she is not presents this unlikely couple with their first challenge. But as the lovers struggle to find a way to be together, they begin to discover the secrets of their former lives and of the young people they come to possess.
Is this a love story or a ghost story? Both. And it works fairly well. What makes this book unique is its point of view, told from the perspective of Helen, a 130 year old ghost who haunts, and is haunted.
I couldn’t recall my past sin, that deed I had done before my death that had banished me from heaven.
Thinking she is alone in the world, she attaches herself to living “hosts” in order to avoid the unbearable pain of reliving her death.
The pain, once I was dead, was very memorable. I was deep inside the cold, smothering belly of a grave…Icy water was burning down my throat, splintering my ribs, and my ears were filled with a sound like a demon howling…I dragged myself, hand over hand, out of the earth…weeping muddy tears. All I knew was that I had been tortured in the blackness, and then I had escaped.
Then, one day her world changed: She was seen. She learned was no longer alone.
How was he doing this? Had he somehow chosen me? I had two strong and seemingly contradictory sensations. One was a fear of being seen by a mortal…The other was an almost indescribable sensation of attraction…I wanted to see him again, to see whether he really was that rare human who saw what others could not. Nothing was more disturbing to me, and yet nothing compelled me more.
This title has been rated for young adults (age range approximately 12 -18), however due to some strong language and sexual content; I highly recommend that it be read by those on the higher end of that range.
Other than, that I found no significant “cons” to this book. Yes, I have read reviews that thought the characters and plot weak, but I never thought I was reading anything other than an entertaining story with a unique twist: one that is targeted towards a younger audience. It is important as a reviewer to consider the intended target of an author’s work, and as such refrain from judging it with a skewed sense of standards.
I do admit that Whitcomb could have made this a much larger work. But would it have been as entertaining and had the same impact? Truthfully – who knows. However, I feel this is of no matter as I found this to be a good read and I loved how she took a well worn theme and made it unique and interesting.
There is complexity here, don’t get me wrong. This is apparent when one realizes the parallels between the lives (uh, well un-lives) of the ghosts James and Helen and those of their hosts, Billy and Jenny. In the end, one has to wonder if there really was randomness involved when these four come together, or a greater plan at work in order for each to find the personal peace they seek.
I had trouble starting this book, but not because of its story or writing. It was just a matter of timing. However, once I began, I did not stop until it was finished. I could not put it down, which normally would earn 5 stars, however as I said earlier, the story development is not what it could be – perhaps because it is the author’s first book. Thus I am going to give it 4 out of 5 stars.