From School Library Journal
Grade 8 Up–After his father is killed in a car accident, 16-year-old Aidan and his mother move to a farm in the mountains of Vermont where his grandmother spends hours alone in her orchard. One evening, Aidan follows her and discovers that she is able to summon ghosts; they drink her blood and listen to stories of her daily life so that they, too, feel alive. Just like Memère, Aidan is able to see and talk with them. Soon he spots the ghost of a young boy who runs away whenever he sees Aidan, and the teen becomes obsessed with finding out whether this boy knows something about his father. The suspenseful story is drawn out as readers learn more about Aidan, his family, and the ghosts. The protagonist grapples with many issues, such as his father's death, his mother's depression, and his mysterious grandmother. The book frequently alludes to Homer's Odyssey
, including its title, taken from the poem. Like Odysseus, Aidan is on a quest to find out about his family that takes him on many twists and turns. Even though some readers may have trouble interpreting some of the book's symbolism, the supernatural story, with its issues of grief and recovery, is well written, and many thoughtful teens will enjoy it.–Jane Cronkhite, Cuyahoga County Public Library, OH
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Gr. 7-10. Unlike Stahler's debut fantasy, Truesight
(2004), this stand-alone novel is set on Earth--but as far as teenager Aidan is concerned, his grandmother's Vermont community, where he and his mother have relocated after his father's tragic death, might as well be another planet. At first it's simply the remoteness and red-neck culture that seem punishingly tedious. Then Aidan discovers that the area is a literal purgatory: each night, his grandmother meets with restless spirits in the forest, where she serves up a magical brew that imparts a fleeting taste of life. Eager for the closure that an encounter with his dad's ghost might bring, Aidan pursues an exhausting quest that pushes him toward a potentially devastating crossroads. Influencing his eventual decision to "put aside the dead and start thinking about the living" are some artificial elements (a redemptive literary encounter with Homer's The Odyssey
, a thinly drawn romance with a local girl), but Stahler's eloquence on grief and yearning, combined with a vision of ghosts refreshingly distinct from depictions in "cheesy horror movies," will exert a powerful hold on many teens' imaginations. Jennifer MattsonCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved