Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Review: Wherever You Go by Heather Davis

I did a lot of trading at this year's Ontario Blogger Meet Up, and Wherever You Go was one of the books I was most excited to read when I got back from the event. Anyone who has followed this blog for any length of time knows I'm intrigued with the concept of death--both what happens when we die, and how those who remain living can seek and find the strength to keep going when they are left behind. I'm also not one to shy away from books that feature illness, and Alzheimer's is something I'm not terribly familiar with, so I was curious to see how it would get tied into the story. Ready to see what I thought of Wherever You Go? Well, read on and find out. :)
(Summary from GoodReads)
Seventeen-year-old Holly Mullen has felt lost and lonely ever since her boyfriend, Rob, died in a tragic accident. The fact that she has to spend most of her free time caring for her little sister and Alzheimer’s-stricken grandfather doesn’t help. But Holly has no idea that as she goes about her days, Rob’s ghost is watching over her. He isn’t happy when he sees his best friend, Jason, reach out to help Holly with her grandfather—but as a ghost, he can do nothing to stop it. Is his best friend really falling for his girlfriend?

As Holly wonders whether to open her heart to Jason, the past comes back to haunt her. Her grandfather claims to be communicating with the ghost of Rob. Could the messages he has for Holly be real? And if so, how can the loved ones Rob left behind help his tortured soul make it to the other side?

Told from the perspectives of Holly, Jason, and Rob,Wherever You Gois is a poignant story about making peace with the past, opening your heart to love, and finding the courage to move forward into the light.
Told not only in three distinctive voices, but also in three distinctive writing styles, Wherever You Go grabbed my attention from page one and never let go. As a writer, I was immediately intrigued by Heather Davis' choice to have Rob's POV in 2nd person, Holly's POV in first person, and Jason's POV in third person. Sounds like a mess right? Well, it totally wasn't. It created an immediate distinguishing factor for each of these characters, helping me know immediately whose head we were in. 

Wherever You Go is a genre blender, mixing a mostly contemporary plot with a cool ghost-fueled paranormal undertone. The plot is slow moving in an elegant, character driven way. It made me want to know more about each of the major characters and the people in their lives, and then it slowly pieced things together in such a way that all three of the major characters interconnect in ways I might not have expected at the novel's beginning. 

Of course, that type of storytelling only works if the characters are interesting and likable, which was the case all the way around with the main cast of this book. Holly has so much she needs to deal with and so much expected of her that I just wanted to hug her. Jason came across as a genuinely nice guy and I loved how my perspective of him changed as I read the book, rather than being formed at the beginning and kept in one place all the way through. 

Rob was a believable ghost--he made sense to me. He wasn't all high and preachy about how awesome it is to be dead (as we often see creatures in more PNR-centric fiction.) Instead, he kinda reminded me of "The Happy Phantom" by Tori Amos, where she sings: 
Or will I see you dear and wish I could come back
You found a girl that you could truly love again
WIll you still call for me when she falls asleep
Or do we soond forget the things we cannot see
A lot of Rob's plot deals with the fact that Holly and Jason are growing close, while Rob is stuck watching this rather than moving toward "The Light". (Which, for anyone who doesn't like religion shoved down their throat, remains very neutral. I know that kinda thing can bug some people.) 

I only had two issues with this book. One was the way that Heather Davis constructed the black moment for her romance. It relied very much on he said / she said and involved a bit of slut shaming (it was a rumor, but still--not cool), which tends to make me mad. The other problem is that while it was alluded to why Rob's friends had issues with Holly, it was never properly addressed (which is a big problem since it effected the black moment in Holly and Jason's relationship.) Considering that we get both Rob and Jason's POVs, I felt there was no logic to keeping the reader in the dark from start to finish. 
Despite any complaints, Wherever You Go is a novel that I truly enjoyed and that I had absolutely no trouble completing. It has a fairly original concept and for the most part it carries that off well. If you like stories where real contemporary issues take a turn for the paranormal or semi-magical, this is a book that I would strongly recommend. 



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