Ripley Patton’s Ghost Hand is not for the faint of heart. Marketed as a YA paranormal thriller, it may initially attract fans of lighter fare like Twilight and other paranormal romances. If that’s you, buckle up for a dark and wild ride.
Olivia Black is a high school student with a rare genetic mutation known as PSS, or Psyche Sans Soma, a condition in which a portion of one’s body is manifested as energy rather than flesh. The book jumps right into the action when Olivia loses control of her PSS hand and it reaches into a classmate to retrieve something that most certainly should not be there. Marcus, the new guy in class, seems far too interested in Olivia after he witnesses this incident. But it may be because he has vital information about the dangerous men who chase Olivia through the cemetery and go to extreme lengths to bring her into custody.
This novel was a fresh voice in the genre and brought some exciting new things to the table, including one of the toughest, smartest, spunkiest heroines I’ve had the pleasure of reading this year. Olivia’s character is informed significantly by the death of her father and the burden of being different, of being born with a PSS hand. When she gets in big trouble with militant political group Citizens Against Minus Flesh, her refreshing, tough-girl response? “Solve the problem. Get yourself out.”
And while the novel tackles some dark themes, including cutting, torture, and death, Olivia handles it all with a healthy dose of snark. This novel made me laugh out loud a number of times, especially at Olivia’s interactions with budding love interest Marcus. Much like Jace and Clary in Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments series, humor forms a big part of their relationship and they variously refer to each other as an “emo ninja,” a “labrador” and a “cute narcoleptic.” I dare you to read this book without snickering to yourself.
|A dramatic reenactment of me reading Ghost Hand.|
Speaking of Marcus, this novel earns major points for the inclusion of a dark-skinned love interest and a mixed-race romance. His and Olivia’s relationship develops organically throughout the course of the novel as they slowly open up to each other. The rest of the characters are equally diverse and have unique backstories; Patton is equally as gifted at characterization as she is at plot development. However, some characters, like Jason and at times Marcus, though fully realized, are not always likeable or trustworthy, and I found myself rooting for Olivia more than any of her allies. I hope we’ll see a softening of these hard-ass boys in the next two books of the trilogy.
The only drawback to Patton’s first full-length novel: the pacing at the top of the novel was a bit too fast, which I suspect is related to Patton’s background as a short story writer. I could have used more exposition in getting to know Olivia and the phenomenon of PSS. Patton suggests that Olivia’s life is turning upside-down, but it’s hard to comprehend the extent of that change when we don’t see the before, only the after.
Ghost Hand is an original, engrossing read that I highly recommend to fans of other YA paranormal fiction who are ready to delve into more challenging and adult themes. With the introduction of Olivia Black, the genre is all grown-up.
*I received an e-copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.