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.