Author : Ava Morgyn
Published By : AW Teen
Year Published : October 1st 2019, Preorder Available At Link Above.
Genre / Tags : YA, Realistic Fiction, Contemporary, Light Fantasy
Formats : Hardcover, eBook
# of Pages : 272 pages (Hardcover)
Olivia Foster hasn’t felt alive since her little brother drowned in the backyard pool three years ago. Then Kara Hallas moves in across the street with her mother and grandmother, and Olivia is immediately drawn to these three generations of women. Kara is particularly intoxicating, so much so that Olivia not only comes to accept Kara’s morbid habit of writing to men on death row, she helps her do it. They sign their letters as the Resurrection Girls.
But as Kara’s friendship pulls Olivia out of the dark fog she’s been living in, Olivia realizes that a different kind of darkness taints the otherwise lively Hallas women—an impulse that is strange, magical, and possibly deadly.
Note : I received an e-ARC of this title from Netgalley and A&W Teen for review.
I took one look at this book’s cover and was immediately pulled in. It’s just clever and embodies a sort of whimsical horror that is perfect in time for Halloween. Then we have the title- Resurrection Girls. I was expecting some kind of duo or squad who goes spirit-hunting. Even the somewhat heavier-sounding description of this title didn’t phase me into imagining this book as anything other than a light paranormal romp.
So anyway, this book is nothing like any of those above descriptions. Not even 5% of it is anywhere approaching such assumptions. (Maybe 3% gives off some paranormal vibes though.) The plot centers around loss and how it affects a once-stable family. After a few years of unhealthy coping mechanisms, each family member is left adrift and detached in big ways from each other. This may seem heavy and depressing to read about, but the disintegration is conveyed with a plainly-laid realism that is effective. The characters are not very endearing. Some are straight up unlikable and hard to sympathize with- and in a grittier and honest sort of way, they leave a stronger impression. The effect reminds me a bit of Ordinary People by Judith Guest or Girl Made of Stars by Ashley Herring Blake.
The central character is Olivia, a sixteen year-old girl left aimless and isolated by the death of her little brother, Robby. Dealing with self-blame and inattentive parents, she navigates the world not unlike how one might imagine a ghost doing so- floating and unattached. Also of note is Prescott, Olivia’s childhood friend. She distanced herself from him since Robby’s death.
Our story begins with a family of three moving in nearby. We meet Kara, her grandmother, and mother. Though Olivia tries to avoid Kara, the two become friends before long. They start to work together on a bit of an odd project- Resurrection Girls, a duo shrouded in anonymity who correspond with people on death row and collect replies and info about the circumstances that led to their convictions. Very little of the story is focused on this subject and there’s no enduring mystery there-in. The main focus is on Olivia slowly working her way back into a healthier state of mind and becoming empowered to confront her family about the distance that’s grown between them. I really liked Kara, she is a figure who pushes Olivia toward new experiences and taking much-needed steps that lead to growth and healing. But she’s a partner rather than a mentor, and the two relate on levels that are more than meets the eye. Their activities veer toward the older end of YA. There are definitely some bad behaviors, but the one that struck me most was addressed in the storyline and met with consequences.
While I feel confident in stating there is no romance in this title, Olivia has romantic tension and chemistry with both Kara and Prescott. The three of them end up hanging out often and there is a sort of complex tension there. While I wouldn’t call this book bi rep, I thought very quickly and initially that Olivia’s inner feelings approach that. Many of the loveliest lines in this book have to do with Olivia’s little thoughts about both of these characters. Her childhood memories and earlier sort of puppy love feelings for Prescott, and a sort of awe-inspired attraction to Kara. There were more than a few lines where I was just thinking ‘Olivia, you’re clearly attracted to Kara as more than just friends.’ But to reiterate, this is not a focal point of the novel though and its development is limited.
The writing style drew me in quickly. Fast and smoothly readable, the pages flow briskly and with a consistent contemporary feel until we get toward the climax and ending.
The plot showed some cracks toward that point. The sequence of events went from banging me over the head with contemporary realism to throwing the cast off the deep end into magical realism/fantasy. I was left scratching my head, wondering if (no spoilers) certain things that happen really happened or I just dreamed them. On the bright side, this is one of those endings that might get people discussing and interpreting the meaning of it in unique ways. I feel like steps could have been taken to make it less abrupt and confounding though. Perhaps a higher page count? More exposition? Nonetheless, taken as a whole, this was a solid read.
Overall Rating – 8/10
Why You Should Try It – A gritty, realistic depiction of loss and unhealthy coping mechanisms that can result. Olivia’s inner voice has some poignant thoughts and touching realizations about the people surrounding her. Unconventional chemistry between Olivia, Prescott, and Kara. At 272 pages, this is a good short read, fast-paced and highly readable. Surprisingly so for its point of focus and muddled later plotting.
Why You Might Not Like It – The focus on loss and Olivia’s fixation can be repetitive. I had full compassion for Olivia but her parents were often hard to sympathize with. The last 30% or so of the book struggles with its footing and the events get kind of out there. The end is abrupt.
I really liked this book. It’s mainly the rushed resolution that was a downside. The time with these characters felt unfinished. But as a story that centers around loss this is one of the better I’ve come across, no preachiness and the emotional effectiveness is noteworthy. If you’ve read Resurrection Girls or want to read it, please feel free to share your thoughts and thanks for reading this review! – Kitty