First of all, thank you Bookishfirst and Penguin Teen for this ARC. I’m not sure it truly qualifies as a “Freaky Friday” because the ghosts featured here are more beautiful than freaky, but I just finished reading it yesterday and I don’t want to wait to review.
The novel will be published on September 15, so definitely pre-order!
Abused by her stepdad, abandoned by her mother at 13, raised in the foster-care system, Mila just wants to find a place where she belongs. When she is hired as an intern to teach Terry and Julia’s foster children and live on their secluded farm by the coast, she hopes she has found what she’s been looking for.
But no one told her the farm was haunted, and facing the beautiful, glowing and dancing ghosts forces Mila to face some ghosts of her own.
Can she overcome the hurt and guilt of her past to find the family that she has always dreamed of?
The prose is absolutely beautiful. I shared some quotes from the novel in my post yesterday, but I have to include this one again because it’s lovely.
Also, the themes of love, family, self, and belonging are universal, and LaCour addresses those themes in a thoughtful, heart-warming way. If you have ever had to work your way past trauma, you will enjoy this book, especially the ending.
It was a little short for my taste. It’s only 260 pages but the formatting adds to that. Truthfully, it’s a novella that should have been a novel because the characters are definitely interesting enough to examine further, which takes me to my next point.
Let me start by saying that I think gender representation in novels is awesome! However, I think that honest representation is far more important. Hear me out.
There is a character in this story named Jackson, who I’m assuming identifies as non-binary. I assume this because upon meeting Jackson the first person narrator refers to Jackson as “they” and “them.” That acceptance is nice, but I know several non-binary people, and they always ask new people they meet to call them by their preferred pronouns. That is never discussed in this novel.
In fact, Jackson never says a word (if they do, it’s only one line), effectively fading into the background like some prop instead of an actual character.
Maybe the author did this because she wanted to encourage readers to be accepting. However, it reads like some editor went in at the last minute and decided to diversify by changing a barely visible character’s pronouns to “they” and “them.” That’s tacky to me because it would not have taken much to give Jackson some dialogue about their identity.
Maybe I’m being too sensitive, but this really irked me. Jackson only shows up about three time and has no real effect on the plot, so it can be ignored. But should it be?
I know I talked a lot about representation, but ultimately, the only negatives I can find with this novel is it’s short and I wish that one character would have been more defined (there is also an uncomfortable masturbation scene that I’m still trying to forget, but I’m a prude).
Ultimately, LaCour does an excellent job of balancing a haunting tone with hope and light, and as someone who has been through trauma myself and who knows what it’s like to feel broken, I truly appreciated this read.