Nearly Departed by Rook Hastings

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Nearly Departed by Rook Hastings

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Category: Teens
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: Entirely creepy tale of the unexpected. We loved the central conceit: an anytown on the outside but anything but on the inside. An interesting character cast adds to the fun, making this a worthy new entrant into the vastly popular teen horror genre.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 272 Date: February 2010
Publisher: Harper Collins
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 0007258100

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At first sight, you'd think Weirdsville was Anytown - it has a slightly rundown feel; everything's just a little bit shabby. But it's pretty much like any other town. Parents go to work. Kids go to school and clump together in little peer groups of geeks and swots and jocks and bullies. But Weirdsville isn't like any other town. There's a strangely abundant wood right in the middle of it, and at night, everythings turns, well, a little bit weird. The darkness is so dark it almost sucks you in. And there are odd noises too...

... and Emily thinks she's seen a ghost.

Emily is a tiny little slip of a thing, often scruffy and always the butt of everyone's jokes. Jay is a bit of a geek and he concentrates very hard on treading the fine line between geekdom and bullying victim. Hashim is the school's star footballer and best-looking boy. Kelly comes from the wrong side of the tracks and the town's worst thug is after her blood because of something her brother did. Bethany thinks Weirdsville is the pits and she's far too good for it. She can't wait to get away.

They don't sound like much of a supernatural crime-fighting force, do they? But if they don't step up to the plate, Emily may never see her mother again.

Oh! I did enjoy Nearly Departed. Frankly, I wasn't expecting to. The teen supernatural horror market is so overheated at the moment and I truly don't know if I can face any more ghosties, ghoulies, vampires, werewolves or zombies. I've seen enough in the last year to sate my appetite for a lifetime. But the target audience just can't get enough and so I'm beginning to feel rather lumbered.

Despite the stuffed-to-bursting teen horror shelves, though, Nearly Departed felt fresh and interesting. I love the central motif of Weirdsville, a seemingly run-of-the-mill town that is anything but. It's so stuffed to the gills with the paranormal that the careful balance is beginning to break down and a new generation of fighters is desperately needed. But at the outset, our characters don't know that. By the end, their lives have changed for good.

Against this background, the narrative is driven forward by a very Gothic tale of the unexpected surrounding Emily and her missing mother. I saw the twist before it came, but not that far before. The writing is relaxed, but smart and sassy and the character interaction is good. Emily, Jay, Hashim, Kelly and Bethany represent the usual classroom stereotypes, but Hastings has rounded them into fully three dimensional people, who are interesting. It's an easy read, but a genuinely creepy one and I think it will find a strong place in this very popular genre.

My thanks to the nice people at Harper Collins for sending the book.

If they like the look of Nearly Departed, Ghost Chamber by Celia Rees will also appeal. Those who prefer their horror of a more classical bent would love My Swordhand Is Singing by Marcus Sedgwick.

Buy Nearly Departed by Rook Hastings at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Nearly Departed by Rook Hastings at

Buy Nearly Departed by Rook Hastings at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Nearly Departed by Rook Hastings at


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