By Gina Rosati
Available now from Roaring Brook (Macmillan)
Review copy courtesy of the golden witch.
Gina Rosati's debut novel takes on a paranormal ability I haven't seen covered in YA books yet: astral projection. The ability will be familiar to anyone like me who is old enough to have watched Charmed. (Are there people reading this too young to have seen Charmed? Please say no, because I'm feeling old right now.)
Anna Rogan can leave her body and travel all around the world in the space of a history class. Her best friend Rei is the only one who knows about her ability. (Rei is short for Robert Reiki Ellis. Thus, Rei is a guy despite the girly nickname.) Not even their mutual friend Sean Murphy knows about Anna's power. Then Taylor Gleason and Sean have a rendezvous a the top of the waterfall and she falls, Sean unable to save her. Anna sees it all, observing in her astral form. But when she tries to return to her body, Taylor has taken over. And Taylor has one goal: put Sean in jail for her untimely death. Anna must find a way to get her body back and clear Sean's name. Unfortunately, Rei is the only person who can see her.
AURACLE gets bonus points for being standalone, not having a love triangle, and not being about vampires or werewolves. It loses points for having characters who constantly do stupid things. Sean, in particular, acts in the most incriminating way possible. Rei has the most sense, and they are just teenagers, but it's sometimes frustrating.
But while AURACLE contains unconventional aspects, Anna is, at heart, a conventional heroine. She knows about her astral projection in the beginning, but she's never learned how to use it more effectively. She's secretly in love with her best friend. Taylor, on the other hand, is more intriguing. She'd prefer to be a mother than go to Yale like her parents want. She's acting out, desperate to be liked, selfish, and sad. She's a female sexual predator, pursuing guys after they say no, but dismissed by Anna and most of her classmates as a slut. She died a teenager and wants desperately to live.
It takes almost the entirety of AURACLE for Anna to have any empathy for Taylor. Now, Taylor is definitely the villain, but she's a complex character. It's a bit disturbing that the heroine so easily writes her off. Perhaps I'm just turned off by how often Anna tosses the word slut around. The way Taylor treats Sean is wrong, and I'm cool with someone being called out for pursuing the unwilling. But slut isn't the right term for that.
I enjoyed AURACLE as a paranormal thriller. But I wish Rosati played more with moral ambiguity and risked Rei and Anna seeing Taylor's more likeable qualities earlier in the story. AURACLE's ending just feels like a return to status quo, not redemption.