Title: The Haunting of Sunshine Girl
Author: Paige McKenzie
Rating: 4.5/5, rounded up
This is the story of teenager Sunshine as she moves in with her upbeat mother in a new home. The new home, however, is less than ideal – it’s got that classic old-house vibe with the ugly furnishings and decrepit neighbourhood. “Creepy”, Sunshine calls it. “Creeptastic”, according to her mom. Nevertheless, Sunshine learns to deal with the overly pink bedroom, her separation from her best friend Ashley out in the city, her strange emotions towards a classmate named Noah, and the downright weird art teacher constantly seeking death in her classroom’s works. Like her mother, she tries to find humour in the bleak situation that they’re currently in., and the book generally starts on a positive note.
It’s a lot less funny when footsteps are heard when no one else is in the house with them. Even less when they hear terrified screams from a little girl who doesn’t even exist. Screams that Sunshine’s mother doesn’t seem to remember the night after, and Sunshine loses what seems to be her only ally.
What a good book! I had read the first chapter thanks to Buzz Books, and it had hooked me from the very start. The highlight of this book has got to be Sunshine herself — she’s a very well crafted character who has multiple dimensions to her personality. She has quirks, traits that make her unique and yet relatable to us older souls. She likes Jane Austen, and thrift stores, and kind boys with old jackets; a complete contrast to her friend Ashley back in the city, with whom she keeps in touch through the book. I actually rounded my review up because Sunshine was such a well crafted protagonist.
Super small spoiler ahead (skip to the next paragraph if you don’t want it): Sunshine goes through the typical YA trope where she finds out she isn’t a normal teenager. Of course, from the synopsis, you know that she can see and hear ghosts, but this trope goes beyond that. It’s a phenomenal concept, and I know the series will thrive on it… especially when Sunshine refuses to go along with it. In most YA books, the hero or heroine just seems to often seamlessly go along with their new life, sometimes with a few minor learning opportunities… Sunshine fights it. She just wants to be normal. The author does an excellent job with this, and I found it quite refreshing in comparison to many books I’ve read.
I know that a lot of people might walk away from this book because it’s a horror. Please don’t. I’m a chicken when it comes to horror books, and if I hadn’t been comfortable reading it, it would’ve been a DNF book. You can compare the read to a “Supernatural” episode. It’s got a good haunting, and some horror elements, but it won’t keep you awake at night. I’d go more with “paranormal drama” than “horror”, so don’t let the genre of the book keep you away.
Speaking of genres and themes, the romance, friendship, and action in the novel were all pretty well balanced. Nothing was overwhelming. The plot was really good, as was the overall structure and pace, and the balance between action and dialogue was very well done.
It does end on a cliff-hanger… a big one. I hoped to know something at the beginning of the book, and although I didn’t get my answer, I was very satisfied with the ending. I must admit that I jammed my thumb on my Kindle way too hard on the last page because I couldn’t believe it ended there, and immediately mourned the fact that the second book wasn’t out yet. Nonetheless, it was a good read, and I highly recommend the book.
I would like to thank Weinstein Books, as well as Netgalley, for the free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.