January 26, 2014

Katie Williams: "Absent"

Title: Absent [on Amazon | on Goodreads]
Series: None
Author: Katie Williams [Site | Goodreads]
Genres: Afterlife
Year: 2013
Age: 12+
Stars: 3.5/5
Pros: Bittersweet story, with a peculiar setting for an afterlife novel and some refreshing (if not totally original) elements.
Cons: Conflicts get resolved too easily. One of the twists is quite obvious.
WARNING! Deals with drug abuse and suicide (not graphically though).
Will appeal to: Those who can appreciate a quiet book with a purpose-driven character.

Blurb: When seventeen-year-old Paige dies in a freak fall from the roof during Physics class, her spirit is bound to the grounds of her high school. At least she has company: her fellow ghosts Evan and Brooke, who also died there. But when Paige hears the rumor that her death wasn't an accident - that she supposedly jumped on purpose - she can't bear it. Then Paige discovers something amazing. She can possess living people when they think of her, and she can make them do almost anything. Maybe, just maybe, she can get to the most popular girl in school and stop the rumors once and for all. (Amazon)

Review: This is a fairly short book - 184 pages. And an elegant one at that, with thin, smooth pages and a cute design. I'm not usually into these things much, but I couldn't help noticing, because in such respect, Absent is kind of peculiar.
We step into the story in medias res, with Paige already dead and hanging out with Brooke (a recently deceased schoolmate, who died of an overdose) and Evan (who doesn't volunteer any information about when and why he died, but admits he's been dead for a while). The three of them have stricken an unlikely friendship, since they are stuck in the school building where they all died. None of them can leave its boundaries - if they try to, they're snapped back to the spot where their life ended. For Paige, said spot is a portion of the school roof, where she banged her head before taking the plunge. Also, apparently, this is the only place that actually feels solid to her. Now, Paige has a problem: her classmates are convinced that she jumped on purpose. What's worse, her best friend thinks so too. What's even worse, Paige doesn't know how she died herself - the only thing she's sure of is that she didn't choose to die. Because, why would she? So Paige embarks on a mission: clearing her own name. In the process, she will discover startling and not-so-startling truths about her friends, living and dead - but ultimately, more than anything, she will grow as a person, if a dead individual can do that.
Despite its shortness, the pace of this book is quite relaxed. The characters are not particularly developed, but not to the point of feeling bidimensional. The only real problem I had with them is, they seem to accept Paige's possession too easily, as if the things she makes them do were already lurking inside them, and only waiting for her to force them out. Also, some characters seem to change too easily - their conflicts (both the interior and exterior ones) too effortlessly solved. That's what brought my rating down a bit. [...]

All the kids' stories kept me interested, and I especially cared for Evan, though his was the most typical of the three. And I was able to figure out such story quite early in the novel. Maybe I should have figured out Paige's too, if not Brooke's...but well, I didn't. Paige was very judgmental when alive, but I guess that's how you survive high school sometimes. Anyway, it turns out that she was often short-sighted too, particularly about the people who were closest to her. Which of course is required for the book to hold up as a mystery (albeit this label doesn't conspicuously applies to it). Because at the end of the day, if Paige knows she didn't jump on purpose, why does everyone seem convinced that she did?
I did like the ending, open enough not to sound cheesy or too trite, but with all the major issues tackled and/or resolved. Also, the moth on the book cover has a key role in it, as Paige has one in Evan's being set free at last. Mind you, this is an afterlife book in the sense that the main characters are dead - not because you get any glimpse of how the world-after might be. And it works great that way.
This is also a book about forgiveness and acceptance. Both the living and the dead undergo this process, and that's what allows them to grow...or to let go. I must admit I'm more the banging-head-on-walls type, but I did appreciate how those subjects were handled.
So, in short, a little, bittersweet book that I'm glad crossed my path
For quotes from this book click here.
For more Afterlife books click here
Like this book? You might also be interested in Christopher Pike: "Remember Me".


  1. Wow, this is a really intriguing premise for a novel. It's always fun reading about people being possessed and stuff. I'll have to put this on my short list. Great review. :)

    1. No horror here, but I'm sure you'll find something in it suited to your tastes.
      And thanks!

  2. Thoughtful review. Sounds like an interesting book. Thanks.

    1. I hope you'll get the chance to read it someday. And thank you!


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