I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
So, how to start this. This book had some good ideas. It revolved around Alyx, and her ability to see ghosts, most importantly the ghost of her sister. She’s put in a mental hospital because of it, where people are doing experiments on people like her. She finally escapes and goes to a school for people with her kind of powers, and she keeps trying to figure out a way to save her now possessed friends at the mental hospital. It could work.
I think where it falls short is characters and description. Character-wise, there were so many characters who spent so much of the time being mad that it was hard to get attached, as well as a lack of understanding about how other characters would feel or naturally be. When Alyx arrives at the school, Transcend, her mother’s former friend, Xan, is the worst example of this.
Alyx has essentially just escaped a dangerous hostage situation from a mental ward, where she’s been held captive for years and had to fight with possessed people for at least several months, including people who are now attacking her who used to be her friends. Xan is perfectly aware of where Alyx has been. You’d think it would be obvious that a girl like this would have some problems, regardless of whether or not she’s insane because she sees ghosts (which is normal in the school). So how do they prepare to handle a new recruit who is coming in after fleeing for her life?
They don’t seem to at all. They allow other students to openly shun her, they get mad at her for not immediately knowing the ins-and-outs of how they do things, they get mad when she’s in class and explains to the other students what people being possessed is like, etc. She’s told that they use their powers to help people in high positions earn money and get intel and they show no interest in helping her with her “all my friends are possessed by evil people and will be killed soon” problem.
I thought it was odd when Alyx first got to the school and refused to say that she wanted to be there to help her friends. Her excuse that ‘people don’t like to be used’ seemed weak, and in the end it turned out to be a forced plot device.
Alyx’ only friend is her new roommate, who seems to be the only one interested in helping her out. They go back to the hospital and manage to exorcise one of the nurses. The nurse promptly kills herself when she’s back in her own mind and remembers everything she did. When they return to the school Xan ends up demanding to have a talk with her.
Xan demands that Alyx trust her and tell her the real reason she’s at the school, and in order to earn her trust she seemingly decides to take her rock climbing. But, rather than helping her or teaching her, she forces her to do it, climbs to the top on her own and leaves the inexperienced Alyx hanging in the middle. When Alyx doesn’t give answers that she likes, she messes with the rope holding Alyx up and threatens her.
“Sorry, my hands slipped. If you don’t want them to slip again, make sure I can trust you, Alyx.”
When Alyx gets to the top she angrily asserts that Alyx has to trust her, and complains about Alyx going back to the hospital with Skye without telling her.
The problem is, Xan has never been any more likable than she is at that moment. She’s angry, she’s not particularly warm to Alyx, she gets mad at her for talking about possession in class when Alyx would have no reason not to talk about her experience, she allows other students in her class to be rude to her… What has she done to earn Alyx’ trust? This is all after Alyx has basically been told that she wouldn’t get any help from them to begin with.
Then she climbs down without Alyx and leaves. She leaves Alyx, an amateur, on top of a rock-climbing thing on her own in the middle of a storm. You know who I wouldn’t trust? I wouldn’t trust a person who yelled at me, threatening my life, and then dumped me in a life-threatening situation for no reason. Xan is horrible. Her points about Alyx being selfish fall completely flat.
“You still don’t get it, Alyx. Can’t you see how much you need to learn, that you need us to teach you? You have to stop thinking of yourself all the time. You have to let us in. Trust us.”
Yes, trust the person leaving you dangling on a rope in a storm when she tells you how selfish you are for wanting to save your friends’ lives. Alyx is so selfish, not wanting her friends to die. And all of this was something Xan should have predicted easily even with Alyx not telling her. She knew where Alyx had been. Alyx talks about her friends’ predicament. She knows Alyx has come from a horrible situation, and she does pretty much nothing to assist her. Nothing to try and earn her trust, nothing to make her feel welcome or comfortable, nothing to help her integrate or get along with the other students… Xan should be tied up and dangled off a cliff.
A lot of other characters feel like they just sort of exist. For example, Pashmi. She just sort of wanders around with some science-box-thing that does readings. I don’t know anything about her beyond that. She pops up once in a while and that’s it. Suddenly, at the end, she’s going along to help Alyx at the hospital. I’m not sure why besides “science”. She’s just suddenly in on it, no real connection to Alyx or anything.
Then there’s the descriptions. Many times I got lost in how long something took, where it took place, or it would mention something and I would be thinking, “Wait, that happened?”
When she originally gets to Transcend the description made it feel like she drove a few minutes. Later it says that it was hours. Because her sister’s ghost has disappeared, a familiar is summoned for her. It describes it, then the book sort of seems to forget about it for a while, and I was left wondering, “Wait, what was that about?” Then, it suddenly pops up again down the line as ‘her gargoyle’, and it felt weird and disconnected how it completely disappears to the extent that I was wondering if she did get a familiar or if I’d misread it, and then bam, suddenly there again.
When they go to the hospital at the end and they’re inside trying to exorcise the spirits, there’s suddenly mention of a fire, and I was wondering when, where and how a fire happened. Then, not long after that, there’s suddenly mention of ‘going with the medics’, and I was wondering when, where and how medics were suddenly there. Maybe there were some sort of mentions somewhere beforehand, but the descriptions often left me lost and wondering where stuff was popping out from.
So, there’s some good ideas, but with so many angry characters and action that was hard to follow I couldn’t get that into the book. If I’m supposed to like a character like Xan, I think he actions would need to be reassessed and I’d need to be shown something other than her spending 95% of the time being a jerk to agree with her.
There are other things that I won’t hold against it because I believe they’re meant to play into the plot. Ghosts are being kept at Transcend, and when Alyx sends one to the other side it makes the people very upset, even though they can’t only be sent away if they’re ready to go. They’re keeping spirits around who are ready to move on and using them. I think this is a good way to hint that Transcend may not be a great place. It drills it in a bit harder later with her sensing trapped, upset spirits. Maybe if Xan is part of the evil side of the place her character would make more sense, but I’d still recommend it be toned down a bit so that it would make sense for Alyx to trust her.
So, it’s a mixed pot. There’s some good ideas with the ideas and plot, but I don’t think the author properly conveyed what they were going for all of the time. I’d give it about a 6/10.