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Surprisingly fun and smart YA paranormal fiction. I loved the heroine: Holly, a smart girl with a couple of friends and reputation for being an oddball, but who isn't a loner, miserable, completely self-doubting, or obsessed with love. She's in a bad spot because her mother has been incapacitated by an encounter or attack in the spiritual realm, so she's been doing the best she can - which admittedly, is scamming a few rich kids at school into paying her to exterminate spirits that she and her friend conjured up. Did I mention that mother and daughter are both shamans, who work to move spirits on to the spirit realm when they are stuck in the earthly one? It's a cool and unusual magical power in YA fiction, and the author provides a good, understandable magic system with rules that are obeyed.
As an adult reader, I appreciated the lack of focus on romance (I mean there is a romance, but there is no love triangle and the heroine doesn't agonize and make stupid decisions in front of her love interest, who is in fact, a nice guy and not a villain. I loved that Holly had at least one steadfast friend who stays by her side. I loved that both of them grew as characters and in maturity as they faced the dangers. The spirits themselves were actually scary, and not in a gory way but in a surprisingly plausible way.
The writing wasn't *quite* Whedon-esque, but it was snappy and fun and well-plotted. There were lessons learned. There were big bad guys and little bad guys. There were mistakes made and lessons learned. There were humorous lines, and the teenagers were, for the most part, believable. It scratched my Buffy itch. The story is aimed at younger, more innocent teens - rated PG.
I listened to this in audiobook format, and Warner Munroe did a decent job. Some of her girl voices were a bit cartoony, but overall it was enjoyably and smoothly read.
NOTE: This audiobook was provided by the author, narrator, or publisher at no cost in exchange for an unbiased review.
I gave it 3 stars because the narrators voices for some of the girls was like listening to forest animals try to speak, and much of the interaction between characters was very cliche. I enjoyed the story, and I will read the next book. I won't listen if it's the same narrator though, which sucks, because I prefer audiobooks.
As for the story, it's not just a YA book, it's a VERY YA book. I think 13 and 14 year old kids are the perfect audience. Butterflies in the stomach, liking the hot guy that could never like her back, others can see it, but she can't.. you get the idea.
Still, the shaman part of the story was interesting. Hopefully that's where book 2 will go into more background, and explain what shamanism is in this world, and how it's different from other magic.