Reading level: Young Adult
Hardcover: 336 pages
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Children's Books (June 8, 2010)
Purchase: Amazon| Indiebound|Barnes & Noble
When Emma Vaile's parents leave on mysterious business trip, it gives her the perfect excuse to be a rebellious teen. Throw some parties, get a tattoo (or maybe just a piercing), and enjoy the first few weeks of her junior year. Then her best friend stops talking to her, the cops crash her party, and Emma finds herself in the hands of a new guardian—her college-age "knight in J.Crew armor," Bennett Stern—and on a plane to his museum-like mansion in New England.
After enrolling at Thatcher Academy, Emma settles in by making friends with the popular legacy crowd. But she can't shake the strange visions that are haunting her. She has memories of Thatcher she can't explain, as if she's returning home to a place she's never been. Emma doesn't trust anyone anymore—except maybe Bennett. But he's about to reveal a ghostly secret to Emma. One that will explain the visions . . . and make Emma fear for her life.
Deception: (Haunting Emma) was hands down the best ghost-themed paranormal I have read. Ever.
Okay, let's take it from the top. First, Emma's entire family mysteriously vanishes, leaving her with the wretched prospect of going into foster care. Enter in the mysterious Bennett, savior extraordinaire. He swoops and rescues Emma, then ships her off to Maine, telling her she's already been accepted at Thatcher Academy. Let's not forget that he just plunks her down in his strange mansion and then takes off whenever she tries to have a serious conversation with him. Oh, and by the way, she's seeing ghosts. Enough to make your head spin, right? I thought Emma showed a lot of fortitude and maturity given her situation. Her snappy voice and sharp wit endeared her character to me right from the start. In fact, all of the characters were well crafted, from Emma with her penchant for Latin quotes to minor characters like the man in the brown suit, who haunted Emma's math class.
Soon after diving into the narrative, I became entranced by Lee Nichols' unique take on ghosts and Emma's sharp, humorous voice. It quickly becomes apparent that Emma is what's fascinatingly known as a "ghostkeeper". Normally ghostkeepers are able to do only one of three things; summon ghosts, compel ghosts or dispel ghosts. But Emma is not your average ghostkeeper, not by a long shot. As her heritage and capabilities are revealed, it opens up an exciting, unique world full of history, magic, romance and mystery.
One of my favorite aspects about Emma was her sensitivity toward the ghosts. While others tended to view them as unfeeling servants to be ordered about, Emma treated them with real respect and subsequently gained their admiration. From Anatole, the passionate French cook, to "The Rake", Emma’s sparring partner with the heart-breaking past, to Celeste, the gentle housemaid with the heart of gold, I felt like all the ghosts were my friends and I genuinely grew to care about them.
One of the best scenes in Deception involves Emma and little urchin ghost Nicholas, a young boy who died of consumption. Here’s a snippet of what happened when Emma showed Nicholas how to play a Gameboy —
“We played past midnight, snuggling- though at a distance, to prevent frostbite—on my bed. Nicholas glowed with excitement. Literally. He glowed. And you’d expect ghostly laughter to sound hollow and chilly, but his burbles of childish delight radiated warmth.
When finally I fell asleep, the last thing I heard was, “Nobody’s ever done nothing like that for me before, mum. Not ever.” -Page 139 (ARC version)
Emma’s interactions with the elusive and often infuriating Bennett sizzled. Their moments together reminded me of the fencing classes Emma was forced to take at Thatcher. One minute Bennett was advancing, the next, unexpectedly reeling backward; until it all became a dizzying whirl of lunges, parries and clever retreats. Their verbal sparring practically knocked me off my feet and made the air pop and crackle with electricity. Those little moments when they touched-- when Bennett took up her hand to dance in the ballroom, or when he showed her how to knot her tie --they were incredible. I never quite knew for sure if Emma could fully trust him either, which only increased the tension even more. Was Bennett to be trusted? Did he know where her parents and brother were? What was he hiding? These questions I had to know.
Lee Nichols infused her own unique spin on ghosts into a fresh, fun plot filled to the brim with vivid, characters and heart-pounding action. The cliffhanger ending really set the stage for what's sure to be another stellar installment in this exciting new series. Fans of mystery, the paranormal and romance are sure to enjoy this gem. I highly recommend it.
Lee Nichols is the author of five novels, including the bestselling TALES OF A DRAMA QUEEN. She'll be making her YA debut in 2010 with DECEPTION: A Haunting Emma Novel.
Visit the Official Website of Lee Nichols.