By Kim Harrington
Publisher: Scholastic Point
Publication Date: January 1, 2013
Genre: Young Adult Paranormal Thriller
Jade loves the house she’s just moved into with her family. She doesn’t even mind being the new girl at the high school: It’s a fresh start, and there’s that one guy with the dreamy blue eyes. . . . But then things begin happening. Strange, otherworldly things. Jade’s little brother claims to see a glimmering girl in his room. Jade’s jewelry gets moved around, as if by an invisible hand. Kids at school whisper behind her back like they know something she doesn’t.
Soon, Jade must face an impossible fact: that her perfect house is haunted. Haunted by a ghost who’s seeking not just vengeance, but the truth. The ghost of a girl who ruled Jade’s school — until her untimely death last year. It’s up to Jade to put the pieces together before her own life is at stake. As Jade investigates the mystery, she discovers that her new friends in town have more than a few deep, dark secrets. But is one of them a murderer?
I wish I could say I spent the last week with my nose plastered to my Kindle like I planned, but I was a slacker and bought a lot more than I read. I did it for the economy! Doing eggnog shots or staring off into space was only interesting for so long though, so I got back some reading mojo, remembered why I was so excited to pick up The Dead and Buried (Kim Harrington – YA – whoa!), and jumped into this creepy, twisty ghost story.
Jade’s senior year of high school began with an unexpected reversal of fortune. Her mom and dad, and after her mom’s death, her stepmom and dad, had always lived very modestly on a tight budget. Jade begged to go to school in a more expensive district and the answer had always been, “we can’t afford it,” so it was a little suspicious that now that her stepbrother was starting kindergarten, the family bought a big expensive house right where she’d always wanted.
Not that she’s the kind of girl who cares much about social status, but Jade’s new address seems to be really cramping it. The only girl who’ll actually sit and talk to her is Alexa, who I’m guessing has Asperger’s Syndrome (the author never outright says but I felt like I was being led there). Jade finally pulls it out of people, that there was a girl murdered in her house, and that’s why her dad was able to buy it at such a rock-bottom price. She goes from pariah to curiosity, with everyone giving her advice to stay away from certain people who may have been involved in the girl’s death and who had motives.
In the house, the ghost of Kayla has decided that she wants someone to find out who murdered her and she wants them to pay. She’d already made herself known, but when she didn’t like what Jade was doing, she terrifies her by threatening her beloved little brother if Jade doesn’t find her killer. The suspect list is endless, since Kayla was a rotten, malicious bully who got a kick out of using people. Everyone had a motive, but Donovan, the last boy Kayla had been dating and who had been accused at the time, was the one person Jade felt sure was innocent.
The chapters open up with Kayla’s diary entries. They really make the book because she felt like the secondary character to me. She’s just awful – she refers to people as numbers, coldly discusses things she’s going to do to their relationships like they’re lab experiments and completely discards the idea that any of them have free will in the face of her own charisma. I don’t know if it was done deliberately to emphasize Kayla’s feelings about all of them or something that came about because there wasn’t time to make anything else work, but the characters never formed any real bonds with each other and were a little superficial. The best physical analogy I can give is that each one seemed to be on a stage under their own spotlight talking to each other. There was Alexa, who Kayla dubbed “Robot Girl;” Faye, the bitter Kayla-in-training; Kane, the gorgeous, nice, super jock and all around perfect guy who seemed to be in love with Kayla and Donovan, the sexy, brooding artsy boy that everyone thinks killed her. They all spent so much time warning Jade off of each other with only vague reasons, they might as well have never met. It was hard to believe they traveled in the same clique.
I liked Jade a lot, especially because she wasn’t the kind of girl who would really kick anyone’s butt. She had passive-aggressive fights with her stepmother, adored her little half-brother, resented her dad and cried and had huge freaking meltdowns over appearances by Kayla – all of which sounds perfectly normal to me, so I could identify with her. I thought it was odd that she immediately drew the attention of the top of Kayla’s list, but that’s why it’s fiction, right?
Some paranormal scariness starts escalating as Kayla the Kooky Ghost gets very angry with Jade and her lack of progress. Some of the things she does are so creepy – the flapping your hands-imagining The Omen creepy – I wanted awful things to happen to her again. There were a couple of twists I did see coming based on her diary entries (figuring out who is which number is fairly easy) and a couple that I didn’t see that in hindsight, I was smacking myself over. I was entertained by the whole thing though, having followed Kayla’s diary through the book, knowing it was leading me to the killer but not knowing who until Jade saw it through her eyes.
The Dead and Buried wasn’t a particularly short book, but it felt a little brief to me because I didn’t have the impression that I got to know anyone that well. I especially would have liked more time with Alexa, to find out if she really did have Asperger’s and what her impressions of Kayla were from a complexly dispassionate point of view. I didn’t see the point to the light romance either, but I could see why it would be popular. This really worked for me as a creepy angry ghost story/whodunit. Harrington has a good ear for the scary stuff, nearly to the point where it works more effectively than the normal moments. I’d love it if she wrote another book like this one, especially if that pesky issue with the unformed characters can be resolved.
My Rating: B-