Past Midnight by Mara Purnhagen; Review

by Madeleine Rex

Title: Past Midnight

Author: Mara Purnhagen

Published: September 1st, 2010

Number of Pages: 224

Rating: 3/5


Let me set the record straight. My name is Charlotte Silver and I’m not one of those paranormal-obsessed freaks you see on TV…no, those would be my parents, who have their own ghost-hunting reality show. And while I’m usually roped into the behind-the-scenes work, it turns out that I haven’t gone unnoticed. Something happened on my parents’ research trip in Charleston–and now I’m being stalked by some truly frightening other beings. Trying to fit into a new school and keeping my parents’ creepy occupation a secret from my friends–and potential boyfriends–is hard enough without having angry spirits whispering in my ear. All I ever wanted was to be normal, but with ghosts of my past and present colliding, now I just want to make it out of high school alive…. [From Goodreads]


You could have all the crazy thoughts you wanted, as long as you smiled and kept them to yourself.


Past Midnight is the first young adult book I’ve read that focuses on ghosts solely (as in, no vampires, werewolves, or gremlins). I loved the first few lines and the character’s voice that seeps through the synopsis, so I was happy when Harlequin Teen sent it to me.

The book is a quick, easy read, so I would have read it in no time had I not been interrupted by the arrival of Miranda’s Catching Jordan (which, of course, I had to reread right away). The paranormal elements of Past Midnight are present nearly the entire time, and I found that pretty fun. However, the book didn’t have the emotional or character depth I typically look for.

Charlotte was nice, but aside from my natural love for her because she’s a human being and a good person, I felt rather indifferent toward her. If I had met her in school, she’d be the sort of person I’d smile at every now and again but never really talk to. In fact, all of the characters were like this. I definitely have a feeling that they are not meant to be the focal point of the novel.

The paranormal storyline reminded me often of those ghost-hunting TV shows. A group of people you know nothing about guide you through an abandoned and allegedly haunted building with what looks like a plethora of useless tools. And, to add what I guess is supposed to be an eerie effect, the show is broadcasted in… green? Yeah, I don’t get it either. The book made me feel as though something really neat should be happening – something out-of-this-world – but it never was. Though there are encounters with people who belong beyond the veil, I was never nervous or eagerly anticipating anything. And when the climax came around, it felt too mellow.

I hate to sound so negative. I did give the book a 3/5 stars, implying that I liked it. And I did. It was a quick, enjoyable read with some very predictable but not irritating events. I will very likely pick up the next book in the series, and hopefully the characters will develop further and the number of clichés will have decreased.

A positive aspect of the book was the family dynamics. Charlotte has had issues with her parents’ career choice for years because once people find out, she’s looked at differently by the kids at her school. Due to this, there was some obvious tension between Charlotte and her parents. Though this wasn’t the main focus of the book, it played a crucial part in Charlotte’s character arc, and I liked the way it was handled. It’s nice to read a book with some common issues between the child and parents.

Common? you ask. Ghost-hunting isn’t really common…

But it’s not the ghost-hunting, you see. It’s the common issue of feeling at odds and uncomfortable with your parents. Embarrassed by them, even. They are all (Charlotte, her mom, and her dad) good, kind people who love each other. Not one of them is abusive or neglectful. No one’s doing anything wrong, yet problems are created simply by their lives. I liked that. I could relate. (Not that I’m ever embarrassed by my parents…)

Overall, I’d recommend this book to anyone who has an interest in ghost stories, and I’d also encourage people on the younger side to read it. Perhaps I would have liked it a bit more had I been younger. In the end, it’s fun, it’s simple, and generally enjoyable.

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