Blurb from Goodreads
What if death is only the beginning?
When Harriet Stoker dies after falling from a balcony in a long-abandoned building, she discovers a group of ghosts, each with a special power.
Felix, Kasper, Rima and Leah welcome Harriet into their world, eager to make friends with the new arrival after decades alone.
Yet Harriet is more interested in unleashing her own power, even if it means destroying everyone around her.
But when all of eternity is at stake, the afterlife can be a dangerous place to make an enemy.
I’ve been a fan of Lauren James’ writing for a number of years having read and enjoyed all of her traditionally published novels (I have yet to read her serialised online novel An Unauthorised Fan Treatise).
What makes me keep returning to her writing is her ability to write great twisty plots filled with interesting characters that are effortlessly diverse and inclusive. And this latest novel, The Reckless Afterlife of Harriet Stoker, is no different.
In a break from her previous novels, that were very much science fiction focused, this new book is firmly in the paranormal (light)horror genre and it’s a rip-roaring ride from start to finish.
The book starts off with the untimely death of the titular character Harriet in an abandoned building. When Harriet ‘comes to’ she finds herself dead as a door nail and surrounded by the ghosts of people who have all previously died in the same building over the years. She is befriended by a number of these ghosts who attempt to help Harriet come to terms with her death and to teach her the rules of this new ghostly afterlife.
But Harriet decides that she wants to somehow return to her grandmother who is now left all alone without her and Harriet will do whatever it takes to make that happen.
What follows is a tale featuring evil ghosts known as Tricksters, dormant ghosts known as Shells, and the manifestation of otherworldly powers that help all these characters survive this afterlife.
The book uses multiple points of view to tell the story and also an unnamed narrator pops in to really add to the twisty drama making it an utterly compelling read with a great cast of characters to go on this journey with.
I particularly enjoyed reading from the PoV of Harriet because she’s not what I at all expected her to be from the outset. She quickly descends into glorious villainy with zero remorse about her actions which makes her a truly enthralling bad guy. Her overall character arc is deeply satisfying to read.
The other character that I adored was Felix. Felix died in 1994 alongside a bunch of other university students (including Kasper and Rima) and since that time has been desperately in love with his friend Kasper and deeply missing his twin brother Oscar who is still living… all I’ll say is omg the feels! He’s such a pure and sweet character who it’s impossible to not fall in love with. I was 100% rooting for him to find everlasting happiness throughout the story.
Other characters included Leah, Rima, Kasper, and tricksters Rufus and Vini.
- Leah was a young mum with a baby daughter (also a ghost) named Claudia and she was fantastically mysterious! I loved how snippets of her backstory were teased at and how it eventually slowly unwound.
- Rima was basically my spiritual soulmate because we both share a passion for The X-Files!
- Kasper was very much the jock style of character on the surface but wow had he depths and inner personal conflicts that he was trying to deal with. Brilliantly written.
- Rufus and Vini were centuries old ghosts who were locked in the basement (using a special energy) but they still were able to get up to all manner of shadiness from there!
If anyone is interested in fan-casting and how Lauren James herself pictured these characters then check out Lauren’s Instagram (@LaurenElizJames) to see character cards she has made for each.
Overall this was an incredibly engaging read that was great fun to read. It was filled with oodles of twists and turns; some predictable but others utterly blindsiding! And each main character was really well written and felt clearly defined with their own unique personality, backstory etc. I also really loved the setting of this book. You just can’t go wrong with setting a creepy book in a large abandoned building that is slowly tumbling down. In addition I think the atmosphere and tone of this book was completely spot on; it had enough creepy weirdness to give an uneasy edge to the book but never too much to make it too nerve wrecking to read which was much appreciated by this easily freaked out reader!!!
I highly recommend The Reckless Afterlife of Harriet Stoker to fans of any genre of young adult fiction because it has elements of many categories e.g. mystery, contemporary characters mixed with historical ones, a romance plot, fantastical plot lines, supernatural beings, gothic sensibilities, antiheroes etc. plus has fantastic LGBTQ+ rep with gay, pan and bi rep that I think gives it cross-genre appeal.
*An e-copy of this book was kindly provided to me by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*
Publishing 3rd September 2020, Walker Books