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What if death is only the beginning?
When Harriet Stoker dies after falling from a balcony in a long-abandoned building, she discovers a group of ghosts, each with a special power.
Felix, Kasper, Rima and Leah welcome Harriet into their world, eager to make friends with the new arrival after decades alone. Yet Harriet is more interested in unleashing her own power, even if it means destroying everyone around her. But when all of eternity is at stake, the afterlife can be a dangerous place to make an enemy.
I’ve read a couple of books by Lauren James now and I have felt the same way about both of them. I think I have trouble really connecting with the writing style, as a lot of the time it feels very simple – and her books are often too short! Although this one was a better size, at just over 400 pages.
The Reckless Afterlife of Harriet Stoker (let’s just call it Harriet Stoker from here on) starts off as a fun but gruesome story about a young woman called Harriet who is just starting out at university. Then she dies. I think if publishers would be willing to give New Adult another go (I know, I didn’t like it when it first came about either but I’ve since realised that it’s necessary), this book could have been a really fun NA story. You’ve got some really gory elements that would work well, plus a couple of steamy scenes.
Unfortunately, the book felt a bit watered down for me. The dialogue and the characters were all a bit flat. I felt like James was trying too hard to be quirky with a couple of them. I’m not a fan of the cutesy characters, and I’m also not a fan of the brooding “I’m such an awful person” characters either. I like my characters to have nuance!
All of that said, I did enjoy Harriet Stoker for the most part. It was a fun and enjoyable ride, with a really interesting take on ghosts (James’ scientist background trickled in a bit there). I also liked the inclusion of ancient ghosts, because I find that too often the ghosts in these stories are Victorian, and people tend to forget that there was a history before Victoria or the Tudors.
I’d recommend this one for fans of YA, and for people who want a gentle but gory horror story to fill their time in October on the run up to Halloween. While I do think it could have been better, it was certainly enjoyable for the most part and I had a lot of fun getting to know the characters and figuring out the ghostly superpowers they had. Also, Harriet’s nan was terrifying.