I'm not sure what was in the water, but this year's batch of debut authors is universally awesome!
Ellie Spencer is barely getting by. It's her last year of high school, but instead of living at home on the North Island of New Zealand, she's enrolled at Mansfield College, a posh boarding school on the South Island. Her parents have left for a year-long trip to celebrate her mother's recovery from cancer. Ellie doesn't even really miss her friends from home since she had drifted apart from them during her "Mum's Cancer Year". She has exactly one friend at her new school, Kevin, but Kevin has a secret that he's just revealed to her, and she has a hopeless crush on the mysterious Mark Nolan. She's also been recruited by Kevin to help with the fight scenes in the local university's production of A Midsummer Night's Dream, which requires her to resurrect the tae kwon do skills she's neglected since starting at Mansfield.
Also, people are being murdered, and the killer is taking their eyes.
Guardian of the Dead was unlike anything I've read before, and I loved it. The novel is set is New Zealand, and draws upon Māori mythology. One drawback to a lifetime spent studying and teaching literature is that I almost always know what is going to happen, but because this book is based on a mythology unfamiliar to me, I could not predict what would happen in this story. That gave this story a freshness that other books often lack for me.
Another great thing about this book is the main character, Ellie. I like that Ellie is so tough, and that she is sometimes selfish like a real teenager. Ellie feels awkward about her size and often describes herself as heavy, but she's also strong and fierce. In a fair fight, Ellie wins, and though I usually don't condone violence, I loved it when Ellie used it to try to discover the truth. One of the joys of this novel lies in watching Ellie grow more comfortable in her own skin, and that's something any young person (of any age) can appreciate.
This novel is also, at time, really scary, like freaking-out-in-fear-even-while-surrounded-by-my-students scary. Like I'm getting the chills right now just thinking about it.
Finally, I have to confess that personally, I've grown a little tired of sequels and series. It seems like every YA book now is part of a set, and as much as I love the books, I'm left constantly feeling unfinished. However, I'll make an exception for Guardian of the Dead. Though it's a stand alone as far as I know, I would love to read more of this story. More Ellie Spencer, please!
Edition I Read: Hardcover
Where/How I got it: Amazon
Total Books Read in 2010: 38
Will I Make This Available to my Students?: Undecided. I won't put it on my desk (it's intense, and there's some underage drinking), but if someone asks I'll probably let them read it.
Other Books Read but not Reviewed:0