Deception, by Lee Nichols (Bloomsbury,2010, YA, 304 pages in ARC form)
Emma is on her own after her antique-dealer parents set off on a business trip, and the manager of their antiques store abruptly quits. She's doing just fine....except that she is seeing things. Spooky things. And then her new friend Natalie plans a party in Emma's home, things get out of hand, and Emma ends up in the custody of child services. Fortunately (?) a family friend appears to save her--Bennet Stern, a very handsome college student, and her new official guardian. He whisks her off to New England, installs her in a historic home, and enrolls her in a private school that's very high quality indeed. And then leaves her, apart from brief visits, to her own devices.
The school part goes remarkably well (Emma is lucky to fall in with the elite kids of the already elite school), but every day Emma's haunting visions seem to grow stronger. Gradually she realizes that she is surrounded by ghosts...and not all of them are friendly. And gradually she realizes that there are secrets her family has been keeping from her--including secrets, not just about ghosts, but about a series of gruesome murders.
Life as a teenage girl is tricky enough--Emma fantasizes about Bennet, while at the same time the golden boy of her new school falls in love with her. Throw in a bunch of ghosts, an international ghost keeping secret society, a love story gone wrong from far in the past, and a murderer who isn't alive, and life really gets interesting.
It's a fun, fast read, sure to be enjoyed very much by its target YA audience. And that being said, there's enough suspense (the dangers here are very, very real, and Nichols isn't afraid to make them immediate), combined with interesting living characters and engaging ghosts (some of my favorite characters were un-living) to hold the interest of the, um, older reader as well. Emma is neither a passive victim, but neither does she too quickly become a super-competent bad ghost fighter--she copes believably, but makes mistakes. I do think, however, that the romance aspect of the story will be enjoyed a lot more by teenagers than by me--Bennet leaves me cold. I'm curious, though, to see where his character will go in the sequel--it is almost certain that there is more to him than we see here--this book is not called Deception for nothing!
Other reviews at Persephone Reads, Book Crazy, Mindful Musings, Ellz Readz, and Novel Reaction.
(disclaimer: review copy received from the publisher)