Notes from Ghost Town by Kate Ellison0
They say first love never dies...
From critically acclaimed author Kate Ellison comes a heartbreaking mystery of mental illness, unspoken love, and murder. When sixteen-year-old artist Olivia Tithe is visited by the ghost of her first love, Lucas Stern, it’s only through scattered images and notes left behind that she can unravel the mystery of his death.
There’s a catch: Olivia has gone colorblind, and there’s a good chance she’s losing her mind completely—just like her mother did. How else to explain seeing (and falling in love all over again with) someone who isn’t really there?
With the murder trial looming just nine days away, Olivia must follow her heart to the truth, no matter how painful. It’s the only way she can save herself.
If I'm being honest, I wasn't entirely sure whether or not I would like this book. A lot of it was because of the mood I was in. When I read a book with a plot like this one, I typically have to feel like I am actually up for it. Books like this set me on edge, not in a bad way but more of a I can't stop reading until it's over sort of way. Sometimes I'm just not ready for that kind of commitment to a book but I am so glad I made the choice to read it even if I didn't feel like it. It definitely captured my attention and made me stick with it until the end, even if some of the parts of the story were hard to read.
Notes from Ghost Town by Kate Ellison tells the story of Olivia Tithe as she struggles with the death of her best friend and the incarceration of her mother who supposedly killed him. If only that was the only issue faced by the main character of this novel. She must battle inner demons as she fights between the belief that perhaps she is going insane, just like her mother, and the idea that she still has a grip on reality. Her colorblindness seems to be one of the many symptoms of a psychotic break, at least that's what the people who know seem to think. To make matters worse, she keeps seeing her dead best friend, Stern, who is pleading with her to make everything right. Maybe she is really crazy and then again, maybe she isn't. Will there ever be any relief for a girl who seems to be facing so much trauma? What will she do as the stakes get higher than ever to prove whether her mother is innocent or guilty? Is she really crazy? Does she have any chance at being happy now that her world has fallen apart?
All these awesome questions, of course, get answered by the end of the book which means... you should go read it. Before you think that this is it to my review, it's not. I'm just getting started.
The idea of death and murder seems to be becoming a very popular topic in young adult fiction. That doesn't particularly bother me because I grew up watching Forensic Files and loving the television show Bones. Death fascinates me which is why I like reading books where authors bring out their own opinions on death and the afterlife. It's a topic that is fraught with opinions and ideas, each unique to the person who believes them. The plot in and of itself is unique for me. I haven't honestly dealt with this sort of book outside of The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer and Hysteria, which cover two separate pieces of death as well. I really loved the plot though even if it touched on similar topics that have been covered in other books. It was well constructed and well written. The plot twists often illuminated the true designs of each character, leaving me guessing about motives or questioning my original opinions of the characters.
Olivia, the main character, is definitely a complex character. She doesn't want to be crazy but she doesn't want to be normal. She can't remember what it really felt like to be happy since the death of Stern and her mom being shipped off to prison. Everyone keeps telling her that once her mother is sentenced things will get better. As if a burden has been lifted or some sort of thing like that. But Olivia doesn't agree. Her mom shouldn't be in prison, her best friend shouldn't be dead, and she shouldn't have lost the ability to see color. In a matter of months, she had lost not only her support system but also her ability to do the one thing she loved: paint. It's hard to do a painting when you can no longer see the colors. All of these traumas caused her not only emotional issues but also trust and relationship issues. She expresses her strength and her ability to move beyond the issues she faces when she begins to show trust. Unlike typical young adult heroines, Olivia shows her strength through her loyalty to those she cares about, her love for the people she can trust, her stubbornness when it comes to things she doesn't agree with, and her faith in the true motives of the people she cares about most.
Stern can be defined, in my mind, as not only the best friend but also the lost love. It was awesome in a bittersweet sort of way that the best friend played more of a love interest for the main character than anyone else. Trust me when I say this, if it would've been possible for Olivia and Stern to be together, I would've jumped on that bandwagon the minute it was made available. Maybe in an alternate reality where he didn't die and she actually had the guts to say what she felt. Typically, a best friend that is a boy becomes a sort of side note, a lost puppy if you will, that remains close to the main character who is oblivious to his affections and he tries to help the girl win the guy she actually wants. It's some sort of horrible cycle of "I just want you to be happy," mentality and trust me when I say this, I do not approve. Even once Olivia sees him again, she still struggles to come to grips with her feelings towards her dead best friend.
If I could pick a team, I would be Team Stern... except for the fact that he's dead and having a relationship with a dead person is kind of creepy. It's like zombie books where a zombie and a human hook up. That is just not natural. Let me amend my previous statement: I am Team Stern, if he is alive. Which he isn't... which is frustrating.
Austin deserves some love too because he is a great love interest for Olivia. Even if I am all for Stern... Anyway, Austin knew her a long time prior to any sort of psychotic break or best friend being murdered. Olivia used to be friends with him before his family's money (and her family's lack thereof) separated them once he began going to private schools instead of public ones. Because of this status he gained from the money he is able to throw around, he, of course, inherited the spoiled rich kid persona and became the epitome of a guy that I would probably punch in the face. You know, when he is acting like he's better than me. It's understandable when Olivia has a hard time trusting him or even rebuilding the friendship that laid in ruins after years of being ignored. Despite the attraction between the two of them, let's be honest because it is there and Austin is gorgeous, it kind of appeared like he was the rebound for her. Which is funny because Olivia never dated Stern. I so wanted to give into his devilishly good looks and charming words which were quite disarming throughout the book but I found it hard not to question his motives.
Raina is what I consider to be the typical best friend for most teenage girls, especially when that best friend is another girl. It's rare to have completely genuine best friends during the angst of high school, trust me. Essentially, Raina is a good person although she isn't the greatest friend. She remains the one person that Olivia trusts and yet, she seems to be more concerned with her status as the most popular, the most funny, the most loved, or the most sympathetic. I kind of like to call this type of person pathetic. But a lot of people clamor for these titles all throughout their teen years, struggling to find themselves and know their place in this world. I think a lot of them don't even realize the harm they are causing to those who they think are in their way. She hates feeling like her status is being challenged by others and Olivia has a hard time noticing what Raina does to her and once she does, the damage just might be beyond repair.
During the beginning of the book, I was actually worried about the role that Olivia's mom would play. I mean, it's not every day that I get to read a book about a mom who is open about her psychological issues because most people are in denial. I like that about her mom, though, the fact that she is so open about the idea that she is crazy and that she most likely will be medicated for the rest of her life. It seems like the only real person who hasn't come to grips with that information is Olivia. There is a lot of difficult emotions playing out in the relationship between mother and daughter in this book. Betrayal, hurt, untrustworthiness, love, hate, hope, fear, indifference, and most of all faith. I mentioned faith earlier when I talked about Olivia and I think I should clarify that it isn't the Christian, come to Jesus sort of faith. But rather a faith in a person that pushes away all doubt and leaves behind a certainty that can only be found through faith when there is no evidence to back you up. I feel a lot of sympathy for both the mother and the daughter in this story. A situation like that would not be easily overcome. The originally elusive character that was Olivia's mom truly captured my attention and my emotions from the moment I got to read about her.
Okay, go read this book. I think I've done some awesome urging to go check it out and some great reasons why it is worth your time. So, do it!