The Weight of Souls by Bryony Pearce
From Goodreads: Sixteen year old Taylor Oh is cursed: if she is touched by the ghost of a murder victim then they pass a mark beneath her skin. She has three weeks to find their murderer and pass the mark to them – letting justice take place and sending them into the Darkness. And if she doesn’t make it in time? The Darkness will come for her.
She spends her life trying to avoid ghosts, make it through school where she’s bullied by popular Justin and his cronies, keep her one remaining friend, and persuade her father that this is real and that she’s not going crazy.
But then Justin is murdered and everything gets a whole lot worse. Justin doesn’t know who killed him, so there’s no obvious person for Taylor to go after. The clues she has lead her to the V Club, a vicious secret society at her school where no one is allowed to leave… and where Justin was dared to do the stunt which led to his death.
Can she find out who was responsible for his murder before the Darkness comes for her? Can she put aside her hatred for her former bully to truly help him? And what happens if she starts to fall for him?
Review: 4 Stars
*I received this eARC from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review. The expected publication date is August 6, 2013.*
First of all, can we PLEASE discuss this cover. The cover artist, Steve Wood, did an absolutely amazing job. Even before I read the book I loved it, but having read the book now I think it fits even more perfectly. I am going to have to track down a physical copy of this book once it comes out just to enjoy it in its full glory.
Now that we have that out of the way, let’s discuss the book itself. I thought it was a great read. The main character, Taylor, has a family curse that causes her to be able to see ghosts. Not only can she see ghosts, but if a ghost touches her who was killed in an unresolved way, then the ghost passes along a Dark Mark. Taylor has to find the murderer and pass the Mark along within approximately three weeks, then the Darkness will come for her instead. The unraveling of how her family got the curse in the first place is a fun part of the story, so I won’t spoil it here, but it originates in ancient Egypt and involves Anubis. If that doesn’t interest you, I really don’t know what more I can say.
As you can imagine, the curse makes it difficult for Taylor to have any true friends and high school is basically the worst. She is ignored by most, but mercilessly bullied by one group of students, led by a boy named Justin. She also has a bad relationship with her father, who does not believe that Taylor actually sees ghosts and is desperately trying to determine a cure for her hallucinations. Justin eventually dies and touches Taylor, passing on his Mark and linking the two of them together in a hunt for his killers.
Overall, I thought this book was very strong. The interaction between Taylor and the ghosts was interesting and believable and there was a great amount of backstory provided while still setting up additional conflict for what I assume is going to be the first story in a series. The picture of high school was all too realistic and the students were well drawn. The eventual relationship makes sense and is a slow burn, rather than a magical insta-love type of thing, which I always appreciate. I liked Taylor, understood her internal conflict and motivations, and am excited to read more of her story.
There were a few weak spots to me. The first was the character of Taylor’s dad. I understand being confused about the curse as an outsider, but since Taylor’s mom also suffered from the same curse, his reaction made him very unlikeable. I didn’t understand her desire to have any kind of relationship with him, to be honest. I also didn’t really understand Justin’s popularity or control over the main group of teenagers. And the name of “the V Club” made me think it was going to be about virginity… Just me? But those issues aside, I think this is a strong new series that I will for sure be following.
This novel is a strong first entry in a series that shows a lot of promise. Taylor is an interesting protagonist and her development arc in this story is both believeable and entertaining. While there is some romance, it does not overtake the story and actually seems realistic in the context of the novel. There are undertones of greater themes at work – concepts of justice, true love, friendship and death. All of this and it’s funny and self-aware to boot – even referencing the quote that has to be on everyone’s mind when reading a modern ghost story. It stands alone well enough while leaving enough background conflict for those who choose to follow the series. It’s a great new entry into YA supernatural urban fantasy and one that I will certainly be following.