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Tuesday, October 9, 2012

31 Days of Horror: Day 9-- Review: Ghosts of Coronado Bay

Yesterday, I had this guest post by JG Faherty where he worte about writing horror for a Young Adult audience. Last month, I read his Bram Stoker nominated Young Adult novel, Ghosts of Coronado Bay.  Below is my review.

Ghosts of Cornoado Bay opens with a very frighetning prologue set a few hundred years in the past as a ship sinks in a storm off the coast of a small New England Island. This prologue hints at the dark secrets that went down with the ship.

Flash forward to 21st Century life on the island of Coronado Bay where Maya, our protagonist, is a typical 16 year old girl.  She has a best friend Lucy, a difficult relationship with her on again, off again boyfriend, Stuart, and works at the diner her family owns.  However, Maya is not as normal as she seems.  She is a seer, someone who can see ghosts.  So far, she has only been able to see her Grandmother.  No one knows her secret though.

When the local historical society raises the ship wreck from the prologue, an evil wizard/ghost, Gavin is unleashed.  He is looking for the dark magic book that went down with the ship.  But also unleashed is Blake, the kind hearted boy whose family had sworn to stop Gavin.  As the two spirits battle, Maya is caught up in the middle.

As the story progresses, Maya's problems shift from worrying about who to take to the dance, to whether or not she (and the entire town) will survive the dance.

Appeal:  GoCB is a well constructed ghost story which begins with an unsettling prologue, then backs up to describe Maya's regular life.  The paranormal is introduced innocently with Maya talking to the ghost of her dead grandmother, but then it quickly turns sinister as the reader is privy to the evil wizard Gavin and his violent pursuit of the magic book that was lost when the ship sank.

The pacing is brisk.  Like the best horror novels, it is unsettling from page one (can't get more ominous than a sinking ship), pulls back and lets you get comfortable, before slowly building the anxiety and scares until a terrifying last third that keeps you frantically turning the pages to see how it all ends.

Although this novel is written for a teen audience, it holds plenty of scares for adults.  Faherty carefully constructs a realistic world. Placing the ghosts within the context of being raised with the sunken ship, makes the horror seem possible.  Gavin, is evil and will stop at nothing to find the black magic object he needs to take over the world.  He has waited at the bottom of the ocean for hundreds of years, and will not waste his chance.

That being said, it is important to note, that the climax is bloody and violent.  Teenagers die.  The good guys win in the end, but there are casualties.  It is nothing anyone 13 and up hasn't seen on TV, but it is violent and unsettling.

Maya is a very compelling protagonist.  She is a bright and articulate teenager who is dealing with boy problems, her blossoming sexuality, and her uneasiness about growing up.  She is realistic.  So while there are ghosts in town, she is also worried about who to take to the dance, that is until the dance turns deadly....

Readers who like paranormal mysteries, ghost stories, and ship wrecks will love this novel.

Three Words That Describe This Book: ghosts, good vs. evil, YA

Readalikes:  Fans of GoCB would also find much to like in Kendare Blake's Anna Dressed in Blood.   17 year old Cas is a ghost killer, but everything changes when he meets the ghost, Anna.  Like GoCB, Anna Dressed in Blood is creepy and suspenseful, set in a modern world with realistic teens who happen to have paranormal powers.

I would also like to suggest the debut novel, Long Lankin by Lindsey Barraclough as a readalike here.  In this chilling novel, it is 1958 and Cora and her sister Mimi are set to stay with a relative in an isolated village where they encounter an ancient evil.

Finally, if you enjoyed the raising of the ship angle to the story, I would suggest the nonfiction title Shadow Divers by Robert Kurson.  As Joyce wrote on our class's blog:
When two experienced deep-sea wreck divers discover a torpedoed but undocumented German submarine lying deep off the New Jersey coast in 1991, they embark on a 7 year investigation to discover its identity. This perilous search delves into the mechanics of the dangerously deep dive, the frustrating searches in U.S., British, and German archives to identify the submarine, and harrowing tales from WWII submarine survivors–German as well as American. The mission is not without its share of tragedies: three divers lost their lives on the wreck and John Chatterton’s marriage failed as a result of his obsession. Fascinating characters, both contemporary and historical, fill this intriguing, detail-rich true adventure tale.

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