CM . . .
. Volume XIX Number 18. . . .January 11, 2013
Beyond: A Ghost Story.
New York, NY: Wendy Lamb Books (Distributed in Canada by Random House Canada), 2012.
226 pp., hardcover, $2012.
Near death experiences-Fiction
Grades 9-12 / Ages 14-17.
Review by Amy Trepanier.
Following my close call with the train, me and Lexi searched everywhere, online and off, to see if anything like this had ever happened to anybody else. I found out I was along in my strangeness. A million times I asked myself, Why me?
For a while I wondered if it had something to do with how I was born. Maybe it took the doctors too long to get my heart beating back then and I got damaged somehow. Not in my brain or body, but deeper- some kind of soul damage. Crazy, I know. But I wondered.
If Lexi hadn't been there to keep me from falling totally under my shadow's spell, I wouldn't have been able to pull away like I did.
...Some kids have imaginary friends, maybe I had an imaginary assassin."
Seventeen-year-old Jane has a death wish- or so it would seem, from the outside looking in. From the very moment of her birth, Jane dodges a seemingly inevitable early demise in an unending series of close-calls.
Upon discovering that her shadow seems to have taken on a life of its own- moving independently of her physical self and attacking her as would a malevolent entity- Jane comes to think of the darkness she casts as her "killer shadow." She suspects her shadow is the driving force behind the incomprehensible self-destructive compulsions she experiences, from ingesting bleach to shooting herself in the head with a nail gun.
Jane's inexplicable tendency towards undesired darkness and destruction intrigues her gothically self-styled best friend, Lexi, who assigns herself the task of identifying the source of Jane's troubles. As the nightmares Jane has suffered for much of her life grow increasingly more bizarre, leading to episodes of sleep walking that lead her far from home, she and Lexi begin to put together the pieces of a cryptic message from the ‘beyond.' It is, they discover, a malevolent ghost, with a penchant for Lexi's soul, rather than her shadow, from whom Lexi is barely able to protect herself.
From this point forward, Jane and her best friend gather clues leading them towards the perpetrator of a violent, unsolved crime from the past. Jane's scrapes with death grow ever more horrifying right up to the novel's terrifying (and yet somehow heart-breaking) climax.
McNamee's depiction of the haunting of an innocent young soul is highly unsettling. Beyond holds the reader in suspense from the first page. The story is fast-paced with nary a dull moment. The language is accessible without coming across as juvenile. Reluctant teen readers, however, may find this novel challenging.
Particularly appealing are the page illustrations atop chapter heading pages. Faint branches across the top of the page add to the ethereal climate of the story.
As a horror fiction and suspense enthusiast, I highly recommend this novel. Beyond will appeal to readers of gothic horror and nonfiction stories of the paranormal.
Amy Trepanier is the Teen Services Manager at Red Deer Public Library in Red Deer, AB.
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