Preloved by Shirley Marr

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

I am back! With a review! Oh, the wonderful things I have in store for you, internet-people who like reading my words!

I was dreading reading Preloved. I find this happens pretty often to me. I find out an author I love has a new book coming out, and I am excited! I read the blurb and see the cover, and I am even more excited because it sounds like exactly the kind of book I would love! I get my hands on aforementioned book! And then I stop.

It's the same when books are incredibly hyped - I expect a book to be awesome, and the odds of it not measuring up are much greater than if I'd just randomly selected a title off the shelf, for which I only have average expectations. (I am very serious about this, considering it is just a novel. I think I should probably do less thinking and more reading.)

For reference, this is what Preloved is about (official-like blurb):

Amy has enough to deal with for one lifetime. A superstitious Chinese mother. A best friend whose mood changes as dramatically as her hair colour. A reputation for being strange. The last thing she needs is to be haunted by someone only she can see.

Logan is a ghost from the Eighties. He could be dangerous. He's certainly annoying.

He might also be Amy's dream boy. 

And this is what the author herself says about it: Preloved is a ghost story. It involves past lives. It's about a modern teen girl and a dead teen boy from the 80s. It's more a bad romance, less of a love story. And it's more abnormal than paranormal! Since it references the 80s, it might also have stonewash denim and a Choose Life t shirt in there somewhere too. I hope it's funny and dark and sweet in its own indie way.

To my relief, Preloved is brilliant. Funny and honest and all kinds of awesome. It felt a whole lot more like a contemporary novel than a paranormal one, filled with endearing characters and witty dialogue. I don't know how she does it, but it felt to me as if it were full of in-jokes, all of which I was in on. Amy, while she does the usual insecure YA heroine thing, is very endearing. (And I think her best friend is more of a Manic Pixie Dream Girl than a Mary Sue.)

As much as I enjoyed Fury, Marr's debut novel, Preloved is definitely my favourite of the two, for a couple of reasons. One being that while I think it's fantastic that there's lots of dark novels for teenagers to read (it's a dark time in their lives! etc, etc), my personal tastes seem to be evolving away from that (I don't know, I think my brain may have reached capacity on books read about murderous teenagers). Preloved does have its darker points and its serious subject matter (like, super-super-serious subject matter), but there are a lot more funny scenes and heaps of fabulous snappy dialogue and on the whole, it's a lighter read than Fury is. It's very well-balanced.

I did love the subtle reference to Fury at one point in the dialogue, though. I like the idea of all of an author's creations existing in the same world, like Amy might run into Eliza at any moment! Though they have very different social circles, so it's quite unlikely they'd be at the same parties. (And what even is Eliza up to, now? I think there ought to be a sequel to that book!)

Other things I loved:

I loved how meta the entire novel was. References to YA novels while inside a YA novel are hilarious.
I loved the hilarious Australian 80s slang, and all the references to 80s pop culture. (The Princess Bride is indeed the best film ever.)
I loved that it was 'more abnormal than paranormal'.
As I read it, I imagined it as an eighties teen rom-com the entire time in my head. And it was great. The novel was, too. Big-time Hollywood film producers, who I know are definitely for sure reading my blog, take note. I'm thinking about the casting at the moment.

The issues I had with Fury - mainly some clunky dialogue in the first third of the book and some plot twists that were a bit incredible - weren't issues here. I don't know whether that's the different genre or not - one tends to be more forgiving if we're involving fantasy stuff, I find. I think the dialogue works better in this novel, it's more consistent overall, and perhaps that's a result of the author having a more definite style. (Writing a second book is certainly a very different process to the first.) I think the explanation of what had happened to cause the ghost showing up was slightly lacking for me, since it was building up to that revelation for most of the book, but it worked in its own simple way. (I really do like the idea of past lives.)

Just as suitable for younger YA readers as older ones - the writing is unassuming and straightforward and nothing is particularly inappropriate, though there are some heavier themes (well, someone had to die in order to become a ghost). Very much recommended if you like paranormal novels and/or 80s nostalgia. Don't let the paranormal aspects scare you off, though - it's a very lovely ghost story.

(I also just read Love Notes from Vinegar House by Karen Tayleur - review coming shortly - also published by Black Dog Books, which is now an imprint of Walker Books, and also a ghost story. Did they do this on purpose? Is it ghost season? If it isn't, publishers should definitely have a ghost season. I would buy all the books. Even though I do that already.)

In other news, if rambling were an Olympic sport, I like to think I would at least make the finals. END REVIEW.

Links you may like:
Preloved on the publisher's website
Fury review and Shirley Marr interview
Sophomore Novel Blues guest post by Shirley Marr
Preloved on Goodreads

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