Recently I’ve been really intrigued with ghost stories, probably because I am writing one and I tend to read what I’m writing. Hereafter by Tara Hudson was the second ghost story I read (The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson being the first) and I really enjoyed it.
Can there truly be love after death?
Drifting in the dark waters of a mysterious river, the only thing Amelia knows for sure is that she’s dead. With no recollection of her past life–or her actual death–she’s trapped alone in a nightmarish existence. All of this changes when she tries to rescue a boy, Joshua, from drowning in her river. As a ghost, she can do nothing but “will” him to live. Yet in an unforgettable moment of connection, she helps him survive.
Amelia and Joshua grow ever closer as they begin to uncover the strange circumstances of her death and the secrets of the dark river that held her captive for so long. But even while they struggle to keep their bond hidden from the living world, a frightening spirit named Eli is doing everything in his power to destroy their newfound happiness and drag Amelia back into the ghost world . . . forever.
Basically, Hereafter is the story of a girl named Amelia who doesn’t remember anything about her human life. She only knows that she is dead. One night, while walking along the river she always finds herself drawn to, she wanders onto the scene of a terrible accident. She sees a boy drowning in the river and for some reason she acts, trying to save him, and manages to “will” him to live even though she can’t touch him. After this, he becomes the only human who can see, hear, and touch her.
From there the story branches off in all kinds of directions. Another ghost named Eli who has already “passed on” and found his place in the after life comes to Amelia claiming he wants her as his apprentice. There are secrets revealed about Joshua’s family and it’s basically just a really original and enticing idea. I don’t want to give everything away.
For me, the writing was good. It was simple where it needed to be, the dialogue was natural (as natural as dialogue between a human and a ghost can be, anyway) and the characters were well developed. I loved the pieces of Amelia’s memories as they came back and her reactions to them. Not to mention the descriptions were amazing, if not sometimes a little bit overdone. I didn’t really care to know every detail about the outside of Joshua’s home, but to a ghost who hadn’t seen houses in a while, or anything other than her river, it was okay. I’ll definitely be picking up Arise, the sequel, as soon as I can.
For me, the characters were great. Do you ever get tired of the gorgeous, popular, smart, witty boys that plague YA literature and make you want to shoot yourself because those boys don’t exist? Me too. And I loved Joshua. Sure, he was attractive, and he was funny. But he wasn’t a genius, and he wasn’t “popular” in the “every girl swoons, every boy fist bumps” kind of way. In fact, he was really withdrawn throughout the book and only really “socialized” when his younger sister made him. He had two really close guy friends that stuck by him and an entourage of one overly flirty, highly annoying blonde. I liked that, and how different it was from most YA literature that exists these days.
As for the female MC, Amelia, she was different. She wasn’t all “I’m not pretty enough for his attention.” In fact, she had no idea what she looked like, as she was dead and cast no reflection. She was smart, but she had to slowly learn that she was smart (another side effect of not remembering anything). Turns out she was pretty, but she wasn’t over confident. She was still a bit shy; that happens when many years pass without any interaction with ghosts or humans. To me, these characters were the exact opposites of what has taken over the YA world, and I seriously loved them.
Then there’s Eli, the other ghost of the story. Charming, seductive, gorgeous; what do you expect from a used-to-be rockstar? He was the entire YA male package, cast as the bad guy. It was pretty much perfect to contradict the other characters. I couldn’t help but feel for him as the story went on, but he makes it hard to like him, which I loved.
As I said before, the plot in this book really hit all the right notes for me. It was so different from the other ghost novel that I read, and it kept me entertained throughout. I think I read this one in about two days. I couldn’t put it down. “One more chapter” lead to three more chapters because each chapter ended on a cliff hanger or with a new twist that I had to find out about. And when Eli showed up, the story took even more twists that I wasn’t expecting. Something different and exciting happens every step of the way with this one.
Basically, what it all comes down to is that I loved this book! It wasn’t one of those books that I will read over and over again, so I gave it four stars instead of five. Really, it’s a four and a half star novel, at least. It stuck with me, and I can’t wait to get my hands on the sequel to see what happens next with Joshua and Amelia. Especially after Hereafter’s epic ending.