Publication Date: February 12th, 2013
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.
(Courtesy of Goodreads)
Okay, I'm not going to lie and say that I loved Kate Ellison's debut, The Butterfly Clues, because I didn't. Honestly, I'm not sure I even finished it; Goodreads says that I didn't... I'm certain I started it, and found myself underwhelmed, but that was over a year ago, AND I know it got starred reviews from Booklist and School Library Journal, plus it has an almost 4-star average rating on Goodreads, so I know other people liked it, so I may go back and give it another go. Why? Because Kate's second novel, Notes From Ghost Town, was UH-MAY-ZING! I really, really loved it. A lot. I just did a giveaway of both books, and the winner of that giveaway is one lucky girl!
So... Why did I love this book so much? Well, for starters, it was a ghost story. I really like ghost stories, and I like romantic ghost stories in particular. This one was better than most, though. You see, this one felt more real to me because even though the ghost boy and the living girl loved each other, there was no continuing the romance from the other side because, are you ready for this? HE. IS. DEAD. And you can't carry on a relationship with someone who is dead. As much as I loved book series' like Anna Dressed In Blood by Kendare Blake and Hereafter by Tara Hudson, this one felt more real than fantasy... I also liked that there was the whole schizo, psychotic break thing to add to the drama. Is Olivia really seeing Stern, or is she just as batshit crazy as Mom? I mean, she did also go colorblind when she kissed him right before he was murdered... Because I had to work all of this out, I felt compelled to keep reading this book, and it did not disappoint...
Another reason this book was so awesome had to do with the characters, of which there were many. That said, I'm only going to mention a few. I already mentioned Olivia, the protagonist, a very real picture of a teen girl who is dealing with WAY too much for a girl her age- batshit crazy mom, trying to hide the fact that she might be right there with her, the fact that her mom is going on trial for the murder of her BFF/love-of-her-life, the upcoming nuptials of her dad to someone he met in "My Significant Other is Crazy Support Group", and more. The poor girl. No wonder she's such a mess... There is also Raina, the third in her and Stern's BFF trio, and her only real remaining friend. Raina is a mixed bag of good friend and self absorbed, but much of that has to do with how well Olivia is hiding her possible-crazy. Stern is complicated, mostly because he is a ghost who can't remember details, but who knows he loves Olivia, and also that her mom didn't kill him, but not how to clear her. There's Wynn, the stepmom's little girl, who Olivia adores, and who, more than once, helps Olivia hold it together just by existing. Finally, there's Austin Morse. He is the son of Olivia's dad's boss, way over-privileged, super-hot, and suddenly, inexplicably into Olivia. I loved how well drawn the characters were, but also, how their details were fed to us over the course of the book; Woven into the plot seamlessly.
Finally, I loved the story and the manner in which it was told. Kate Ellison knows how to write a Murder-Mystery! This book would make an excellent movie, because it was thrilling, and the pacing was phenomenal. I loved that the romantic element was there, but not the entire plot. There were familial issues, mental health issues, social issues, and legal issues as well. Everything was rolled up into this story that could have gone so wrong, had just one little thing been off. Fortunately, that was not the case at all. I don't often cry during books, but I must say that the final pages of this book slayed me (and before you rush to back of the book to read them, understand that it was because of the content of the ENTIRE book leading up to them). I actually cried when I read them. I loved the way this book ended, and I am always happy when an author writes a stand-alone that is THIS good.
Overall, I have to say that Notes From Ghost Town has been one of my favorites this year, which is something I never expected considering my experience (or maybe, non-experience) with The Butterfly Clues. Because of this, I think I will go back and give that book another go!
My Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Grade Level Recommendation: There's some teen drinking, and Olivia makes some poor choices that are more implied in this book, than outright stated, but I would still say this is a book for upper middle school aged students and over. Grades 7 and up (ages 12+).