Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Book Review: Ruined

Title: Ruined
Author(s): Paula Morris
Genre: Young Adult, Mystery, Paranormal
Publisher/Year: Point/2009
-Webpage/blog: I could not for the life of me find either for her

Synopsis: Rebecca couldn't feel more out of place in New Orleans, where she comes to spend the year while her dad is traveling. She's staying in a creepy old house with her aunt. And at the snooty prep school, the filthy-rich girls treat Rebecca like she's invisible. Only gorgeous, unavailable Anton Grey seems to give Rebecca the time of day, but she wonders if he's got a hidden agenda. Then one night, in Lafayette Cemetery, Rebecca makes a friend. Sweet, mysterious Lisette is eager to talk to Rebecca, and to show her the nooks and crannies of the city. There's just one catch: Lisette is a ghost. A ghost with a deep, dark secret, and a serious score to settle. As Rebecca learns more from her ghost friend -- and as she slowly learns to trust Anton Grey -- she also uncovers startling truths about her own history. Will Rebecca be able to right the wrongs of the past, or has everything been ruined beyond repair?

Review: Like the main character, Rebecca, I knew very little about New Orleans before Katrina. What I did know came from sources like movies, novels, comic books and random historical facts that stuck in my head from American history classes. Pop culture painted a surrealistic view of the city--populated by a people who have lived and thrived on traditions for centuries and Mardi Gras, was the talk of the world. I was intrigued and terrified by the thought of going to the city.

And then Hurricane Katrina hit and suddenly the world knew about New Orleans and it was all you heard about for weeks, months and even years later. One of America's oldest cities, so much culture and history swept away by nature. But Morris doesn't hide the fact that New Orleans has a dark underside--not just in its past, but its present as well--entangled with all the glitz and glamorous parties.

I found myself fascinated by what Lisette, the ghost, told us about New Orleans and what Rebecca learned on through her independent study. An entire culture of people and lifestyles I never imagined was discussed. I enjoyed those parts moreso then the rest of it honestly. The curse and troubles of the present day were slow to really pick up speed. For a good half of the book there's barely any mention of the curse at all and other then some rather suspicious behavior and statements made by Rebecca's 'aunt' Claudia and father, there wasn't much to tie in with Rebecca.

Character motivations were murky at best, shifting and tangling with other secrets revealed a little too late in the game and making many of the characters seem inconsistent and feckless. I liked Anton until Christmas Break, but then he became just as secretive as every other 'old family'. His explanations at the end seemed off center and even a little cowardly. Tradition dictates, but he had spent the better part of the first half of the book proving that he was more than tradition demanded.

The end itself was poetic justice in a way. How the curse ends that is. It made me wonder just how much of the curse was true 'supernatural' intervention and how much of it was really coincidence and self-fulfilling prophecy. The first two 'deaths' of the curse could be mere coincidence and given the time period entirely understandable. It was after those that the family began to actively try and circumvent it, so who's to say that didn't bring it about ten times worse?