Having solved the matter of the Radiant Boy, Riley, Buttercup, and Bodhi are enjoying a well-deserved vacation. When Riley comes across a vicious black dog, against Bodhi’s advice, she decides to cross him over. While following the dog, she runs into a young ghost named Rebecca. Despite Rebecca’s sweet appearance, Riley soon learns she’s not at all what she seems. As the daughter of a former plantation owner, she is furious about being murdered during a slave revolt in 1733. Mired in her own anger, Rebecca is lashing out by keeping the ghosts who died along with her trapped in their worst memories. Can Riley help Rebecca forgive and forget without losing herself to her own nightmarish memories?
It took a while to get into this story, but once I did, I couldn't stop reading. Noel has created a strong-willed protagonist in Riley Bloom - definitely not someone I would imagine as a messenger of God. Then again, Noel's idea of Heaven is something completely different than what most people imagine it to be - calling it instead Here & Now rather than Heaven, with God never being mentioned once in either book. This is not a complaint per se, merely an observation. This book is, after all, a fantasy, so Noel has the will and the right to create whatever world she desires.
My complaint about Riley is more her inconsistent characterization. One minute she's talking like a well-read adult using words like cajole, gobsmacked, and eke, the next minute she's talking like the pre-teen that she is, mentioning rocking out to Kelly Clarkson, and talking about how she hates her teacher, Bodhi. Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't one of the requirements of "crossing over" that you let go of all the hate and anger? This is not just in my idea of Heaven, but also for the Here & Now as well since Riley's job as soul catcher is to convince tormented souls to let go of their earthly torment and cross over into eternal peace. Riley's inconsistent characterization was not enough to keep me from finishing the book, but I do worry that the audience this book is aimed for might read it more suspiciously because she sounds too much like an adult in certain places. Kids want to read about characters who sound like them, not what an adult THINKS they sound like.
Despite my criticisms, it was an entertaining, worthwhile read. I enjoyed the added historical aspect to the story as well - with Riley having to convince Rebecca, the young girl murdered in a slave revolt, to cross over into the Here & Now. I will definitely continue with the series when the next book comes out.
Shimmer by Alyson Noel
Published: March 2011
Publisher: Square Fish
Format: Finished copy