Expected Publication: March 11th, 2014
By: Amy Talkington
When Liv Bloom lands an art scholarship at Wickham Hall, it's her ticket out of the foster system. Liv isn't sure what to make of her new school's weird traditions and rituals, but she couldn't be happier. For the first time ever, she has her own studio, her own supply of paints. Everything she could want.
The she meets Malcom Astor, a legacy student, a fellow artist, and the one person who's ever been able to melt her defenses. Liv's only friend at Wickham, fellow scholarship student Gabe Nichols, warns her not to get involved, but life is finally going Liv's way, and all she wants to do is enjoy the ride.
But Liv's bliss is doomed. Weeks after arriving, she is viciously murdered and, in death, she discovers that she's the latest victim of a dark conspiracy that has claimed many lives. Cursed with the ability to see the many ghosts on Wickham's campus, Gabe is now Liv's only link to the world of the living. To Malcom.
Together, Liv, Gabe, and Malcom fight to expose the terrible truth that haunts the halls of Wickham. But Liv must fight alone to come to grips with the ultimate star-crossed love.
Liv has been on the fringes her entire life. A tenant of the foster care system, and someone who feels more comfortable with art than people, she is excited to get the opportunity to become a better artist. A scholarship to the prestigious Wickham Hall is a dream come true for Liv - or so she thinks until she actually gets there. The rich students love to humliate the scholarship kids and liv is even more outcast than ever. But she has a connection with rich, legacy studen Malcom Astor and manages to find a friend in fellow poor kid Gabe. Soon Liv's sneaking off to meet with Malcom and they are falling in love. One night Liv doesn't make it back to her dorm - she is murdered and thrown down an old well. The main question is who did it - and why? Also, Gabe is able to communicate with her still and together they try to solve Liv's murder, which is just the newest in a string dating over 150 years back. Can they convince Malcom to turn his back on the secret society he belongs to and do the right thing, to bring the killer to justice? And how will Malcom and Liv say goodbye, when they'd only just begun?
I started this book off thinking how shallow and stereotypical of a character Liv was - and it's not like any of the side characters were all that much better. Gabe is a prickly, disenfranchised loner who sees ghosts and Malcom is a weak-spined, rich boy who is slumming it with Liv. It's only after we see Malcom and Liv sneaking around together, get a hint at Gabe's terror of the ghosts around the school (and short POVs from the ghosts on their respective origins/murders) that we get a little more meat to the story. Things really pick up after Liv's murder. It's up to Liv, Gabe and Malcom to find the truth with the Wickies (rich kid, secret society students) trying to cover it up and make it look like a suicide. It's a genuinely interesting plot, with Liv and Gabe spending much time trying to convinve Malcom she's still there. And once they do, the annoyance factor of the go-between is still there. However, a snarky bromance builds between Gabe and Malcom that is absolutely hilarious to watch. Liv is discovering her limitations as a spirit, what she wants now that she's dead and what the Hell happened exactly. It's good stuff plotwise and the pacing is excellent.
The backstory on all the ghost girls of Wickham Hall and the mystery of Liv, which was really the mystery of them all, definitely lent some much needed detail to what could have been a very thin and schmaltzy plotline focus. The twists and turns involving the motives, supernatural/non-supernatural origins of the killer(s) and the resolution were well executed. Nothing truly shocking, but nothing truly cliched and overused either. And the ending is absolutely gorgeous. I loved that this book reads like a screenplay for a T.V. show or a film. It made it much easier to swallow that there was a complete lack of characterization of Liv, Gabe or Malcom beyond their actions and mystery solving needs. It didn't try to waffle between novel and screenplay in style or tone, which helped it out considerably. It stuck to its guns and I appreciate and respect that beyond belief. The fluffy tendencies of this book often won out, and I think what saved it for me was the ending. It fit exactly and I loved how realistic it was (for a book with sentient, ghostly beings that is!). Liv and Malcom didn't linger on the past. They both moved forward with what they knew to be right for themselves and each other. Overall, this has a very detailed and well written mystery, with multi-layered ghosts. It has romance, comedy and action is high degree. I recommend it if you're okay with ingesting some cotton candy and like a break from the overly serious every once in a while.
VERDICT: 3.5/5 Stars
*I received this book as part of Around the World ARC Tours, run by the lovely Princess Bookie. No favors or money were exchanged for this review. This book's expected publication date is March 11th, 2014.*