The Mountains of Instead

Championing fiction as an escape from pandemics, politics and bad TV.

Still She Haunts Me, Phantomwise (review: Ghost Flower by Michelle Jaffe)

Ghost Flower
Michelle Jaffe
Atom 2012

Eve has had a hard life, moving from foster home to foster home to city street before finally finding herself serving coffee in Arizona. Desperate for a change in her fortune she finds herself drawn into the world of wealthy teens Bain and Bridgette Silverton, when they approach her with a strange yet lucrative proposal.  Eve, apparently, is a dead ringer for their missing cousin, Aurora and the siblings need Aurora to return from the unknown in order to claim her inheritance – a hefty chunk of which will go Eve’s way should she agree to be Aurora for the next few months. Eve readily agrees only to find that the circumstances surrounding Aurora’s disappearance are shrouded in secrets and lies.  As she finds herself literally haunted by a past of strange suicides, family discord and a dead girl who seems unwilling to rest in peace, Eve starts to wonder just how Bain and Bridgette are planning Aurora’s departure this time around.

As a protagonist, Eve is not an entirely reliable narrator.  Primarily this is due to the fact that she is intent on keeping her past a secret from the wealthy Silvertons.  However, over the course of the novel the line where Eve ends and Aurora begins becomes increasingly blurred with their memories overlapping in strange and often confusing ways.  This works mainly because Eve is confused.  Yet she’s also tough and the more she learns about Aurora the more she wants to learn about her disappearance.  Despite some pretty freaky goings on she remains focussed on unearthing the truth and slowly learns who she can and cannot trust.  She’s a pretty prickly character but never unlikable and her journey is, for the most part, believable.  Her interactions with all the characters have the ring of truth about them despite her friendship with N.Martinez sometimes seeming a little forced.

Other characters in Ghost Flower are a lot of fun to read.  Bain and Bridgette positively reek of screwed-up privilege yet neither is entirely what they appear to be.  Possible love interest Grant is instantly likable, despite the fact that he (like all the rest) is pretty vague when it comes to the past.  Coralee is without doubt one of the most lovable mean girls in recent memory and her dialogue is both knowingly written and laugh-out-loud funny.  Representing the ever present boys in blue is the surprisingly young N.Martinez – who despite his quirky name is no Johnafter.  He’s an interesting presence in the book and he and Eve grow increasingly close so it’s a shame that his character wasn’t developed further as readers never really get a chance to know him.

The plot of Ghost Flower is quietly compelling.  At first it appears to by a modern day Pygmalion with Eve as the poor girl given the opportunity to make good.  However, it quickly takes a more sinister turn and at points is truly chilling.  As Eve learns more about the past of the Silvertons and their friends she feels increasingly trapped in a world that she doesn’t entirely understand.  Her grasp on her own identity becomes tenuous and she is no longer sure what is real and what is not - the effect is unsettling.  Michelle Jaffe’s writing has a straightforward style that suits the story and Eve’s own voice yet also adds a starkness to darker scenes that works very well.  Ghost Flower’s almost fatal flaw is that the ending doesn’t quite work – it’s not particularly predictable yet becomes hopelessly convoluted (not to mention more than a little rushed).  However, the road to the climax is so enjoyable that it almost makes up for twists and turns that seem more than a little nonsensical.

Ghost Flower is a book that misleads with its girly cover and silly title.  What actually looks at first glance to be a story of wealth and romance is actually a dark tale which owes much (in homage) to the old Point Horror books of the 1990s.  Overflowing with shades of I Know What You Did Last Summer and even of the more recent Basic Eight by Daniel Handler (not to mention most of Christopher Pike’s work), Ghost Flower, will appeal to lovers of mystery and is a great way to pass an evening – even if it means sleeping with the lights on once you’ve finished.

Ghost Flower is available now. Thank you to the publisher for sending me this title to review.


Unknown said…
I love your reviews. you have such a way with words.
I have this on my Love list although now I am thinking it might be too scary for me :D
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