Set in America, but slightly stranger, Ellie is a Lipan Apache teen who can raise the dead. When her beloved cousin dies, his spirit visits her in a dream and she discovers that there is more to his death than meets the eye. Using her wits, her skills, and with help from her friends, Ellie works to expose a murderer and protect her family. Plus, ghost dog! Need I say more?
I absolutely loved the setting of this book. It takes place in Texas, but in a Texas touched by elements of horror. Vampires exist, fairy rings are a form of transportation, and creepy, sentient scarecrows haunt people’s road trips through middle America. The author didn’t really explain why America was this way, which I both liked and did not like. I love world building and this is certainly not the book to provide it. But, not explaining the world also made it a little more mysterious. I found myself really intrigued, and hope that the author will return to this alternate America with future books.
This book is exciting and fresh, with characters embodying a really broad range of experiences. Elatsoe (Ellie) is an intelligent, determined, and asexual Lipan Apache. Her best friend, Jay, is a super supportive, loyal friend who also loves cheerleading. Jay’s sister is engaged to a man who has been cursed by vampires, and her parents don’t approve. The combination of truly relatable characters in completely unrelatable situations is fun. And Ellie has a wonderful sarcasm and pithy humor that will appeal to readers of all ages.
While I did enjoy the characters and storyline, I felt that the author had a tendency to include unnecessary details that slowed the story down. An example: “After tossing the empty cup in a mixed-materials recycling can, she smiled.” There is an emphasis on environmentalism in the books, so I understand why that detail is included, but it feels so unnecessary. I could pick out a sentence on almost every page that could’ve been removed, and at that point they began to interfere with the pacing. But this is a debut from a truly talented author with a fresh voice, so I feel confident that future books will improve.
This book is categorized in my library as teen, but I think it would have appeal and be appropriate for middle grade readers as well. It’s a haunting, lyrical mash-up of fantasy, mythology, and horror with relatable characters. A fun and refreshing adventure!