Author: Paula Morris
Published: 2009 by Point (an imprint of Scholastic, Inc.)
Number of Pages: 309
As she stepped through the unlocked cemetery gates, Rebecca swallowed hard. She’d come this far—she had to go on. The cemetery was pitch-black and eerie. The huge tombs with their towering urns and crosses—visible from the Vernier’s house in daylight, just indistinct menacing shapes in the darkness—loomed over her.
As I’ve told everyone who’s seen me reading this book, I rarely read YA books. In fact, “once in a blue moon” would be a perfectly honest evaluation. I’ve virtually read thirty YA books in my entire life. I’ve been constantly snatching at classics and other literature specimens. One day, I was waddling around Borders and circling the Independent Reader’s shelves, and the next I was browsing the shelves of books such as The Secret Life of Bees, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, and Wuthering Heights. On the occasion that I do purchase or check out a YA novel, I typically find myself pleasantly surprised. For example, The Hunger Games and Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins are hard-core evidence that YA novels can end up on your list of favorites.
Ruined by Paula Morris was entertaining and the ideal book for a rainy day, but I can’t honestly say that I feel enticed to reread it. It was certainly riveting toward the close, and the superstitious, other-worldly factors were enthralling, but there were no scenes, phrases, or characters that jumped out at me, leaving me breathless and eager for more. As I said before, it’s ideal for a rainy day—when there’s not much else to do. I could easily have set down this book at any point if it weren’t for my determination to finish it (I’m on a book-a-day streak). It’s just occurred to me that I have yet to tell you what this book is about. Let me make up for my absence of thought:
Rebecca Brown is a teenage girl living contentedly with her father, a widower, in New York City. Her life is simple, enjoyable but not exciting or out of the ordinary, well, that is, until her father practically ships her off to New Orleans to live with her “Aunt” Claudia while her father is in China on a business trip.
Immediately, Rebecca is repelled by New Orleans, her new life, school, classmates, and earnestly wishing herself at home. Her uneasiness does not diminish when she “runs into” a young African-American girl in Lafayette Cemetery, across the street from her new dilapidated house among mansions—and then realizes with a shudder that her new friend, Lisette, is not simply a girl, but a girl ghost. Whoops.
We follow Rebecca’s story as she becomes more and more involved in the two world she now inhabits—that of New Orleans, among rich families that have lived there and known one another for centuries, the colorful yet exasperating works of Mardi Gras, and high school drama—and that of the spirit world, fraught with curses and souls wandering seemingly aimlessly. Rebecca quite suddenly realizes that her part in both worlds is more prominent than she originally believed.
Overall, the plotline was different, but the same—in some odd way that only the people who have read it can understand. It seems as though Paula Morris has added her own special touch to a storyline that could have easily been created by anyone with extra time on their hands—ghosts + Mardi Gras + aristocratic krewes + high school awkwardness + one cute boy=YA book. I’m afraid that I phrased that equation more cynically than I meant to. I admired the way Morris skillfully weaved the historical background of New Orleans into the story. I found, when thinking back, that I learned a hardy amount of history from this book—which was something I certainly did not expect. This book was a good one, yet it lacked the poignancy and impact of others I’ve read. All the same, when passing Ruined at the library or bookstore, I would pick it up, give it a try, and see what you think.
Ruined was exciting at times, frightening at others, and often oddly interesting. It’s nicely written and organized well, and it’s certainly the kind of book that could be an absolutely scrumptious read at night!