Thursday, January 13, 2011


Deception (Haunting Emma #1) - Lee Nichols
Genre: YA Paranormal/Speculative
# of pages: 336
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
Recommended For: Upper HS
When 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 read this book about 3 weeks ago and have been trying ever since to figure out how to write this review. Pretty pathetic for someone who considers herself a 'book blogger,' huh?
I've been trying to find that balance between what I want to say, what I need to say, and what I probably should say. The first thing, I guess, is that this isn't really the kind of book I'd ever pick up on my own. I'd heard of it before, and a lot of my friends really enjoyed, so I knew it was definitely a popular read. But the synopsis? Kind of enough to scare someone like me away.
Words like "rebellious" "parties" and "tattoo" had kind of a predisposing effect, so I went in to this book with my guard up.
But I did decide to give it a try, and you know, I'm glad I did. With the popularity of vampires, faeries, werewolves, and other paranormal critters in YA, it was really nice to read a good ol' ghost story. In the old days, ghosts kind of ruled the roost of paranormal fiction, and reading Lee Nichols' first installment in the Haunting Emma series made me glad to know those Ghostbusters didn't chase them all away.
If you've stuck around this site for awhile, you know that in addition to the story, I pay attention to the writing elements, too. I'm a big fan of Lee Nichols' style - her writing was engaging and evenly paced. However, the story really didn't get going for me until the main character, Emma, arrived in New England and the "mystery" elements began. To be honest, I kind of skimmed the first couple of chapters, pretty much because I knew that if I really paid attention, I would be grumped out by some of the content. And I didn't miss much. The story really takes off when Emma starts attending the Thatcher Academy and living in that awesome house. Lee Nichols' attention to detail was superb; it really brought back memories of trips to Massachusetts.
I love richly detailed settings, and Deception certainly did not disappoint in that department!
I don't want to drop any specific spoilers, so I'll just say that the concept of "ghost-keeping," for me, was incredibly original and fascinating.
As far as characters go, I loved some of them - Anatole, Celeste, and Bennett (Bennett, for me, was the most enjoyable and well-written character in the novel, more so than the main character), but didn't care for others. Many/most of the teen characters in this story were, in my opinion, portrayed quite stereotypically. Thatcher Academy, while richly described, was one of those setting that seemed absolutely devoid of any kind of adult supervision, which may be okay for teen fiction, but where's the realism? At my school, I had teachers popping out of over corner or crevice like an old video game. So that was a little underwhelming. I was also put off by some of the content presented here: very cavalier attitudes toward drinking and casual sex throughout the book. Everybody handles things differently, but for me, it's hard to recommend books with that sort of content. And that's unfortunate, because the premise of this book is genuinely interesting.
The next installment in the Haunting Emma series, Betrayal, will be released by Bloomsbury Walker on March 1, 2011. I'm glad I had the opportunity to read/review Deception - I would have definitely missed a fascinating and original paranormal story otherwise - but I don't think I'll be catching the sequel.

Check out these other reviews:
Deception @ Tales of Whimsy
Deception @ Mindful Musings

Final Grade: B
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