Tuesday, April 5, 2011

YA book review: Through Her Eyes by Jennifer Archer

Reading level: Young Adult
Hardcover: 384 pages
Publisher: HarperTeen (April 5, 2011)

Summary: Every ghost has a story to tell.

The last place Tansy Piper wants to be is stuck in Cedar Canyon, Texas, in the middle of nowhere, with a bunch of small-town kids. But when her mother decides to move to the desolate West Texas town, Tansy has no choice but to go along. Once there, Tansy is immediately drawn to the turret of their rickety old house, a place she soon learns has a disturbing history. But it's the strange artifacts she finds in the cellar—a pocket watch, a journal of poetry, and a tiny crystal—that have the most chilling impact on her.

Tansy soon finds that through the lens of her camera, she can become part of a surreal black-and-white world where her life is intertwined with that of mysterious, troubled Henry, who lived in the same house and died decades earlier. It seems their lives are linked by fate and the artifacts she found, but as Tansy begins spending more and more time in the past, her present world starts to fade away. Tansy must untangle herself from Henry's dangerous reality—before she loses touch with her own life forever.

Our review: 
The opening line for the summary grabbed my attention and I knew this was a book I wanted to read. First I will say, 2011 seems to be the year of the ghost. And then I'll add on, Archer's novel is a welcome addition to this growing genre. Main character Tansy has to move a lot since her mom writes novels and needs to research areas for her work. When they go to Papa Dan's (her grandfather's) childhood home, this is one small town Pansy doesn't want to live in. Everyone knows every one else by name and the place is boring. And the fact that rumors say the house is haunted doesn't make her feel any better. In these types of stories there is always a 'but' and there is one here. But when Pansy finds a hidden box with three items, the book of poetry is what attracts her attention. The poet was a young man named Henry and his words seem as if they were written just for her eyes. She is touched and immediately understands Henry. When she picks up her beloved camera and begins to shoot pictures she sees another time in crisp black and white, a time where the troubled, brooding Henry was alive and her grandfather was his friend. The problems begin for Tansy when she winds up spending more time in Henry's world than in her own.

I love a great ghost story and Archer's novel doesn't fail at all. Through Her Eyes has so much going for it. Tansy is a strong yet likable protagonist. She's tired of being shuffled around the country, of being the perpetual 'new kid,' of not having a real "home." Her thoughts and feelings are deftly portrayed to the reader. We get a real sense of who she is and what she wants. Is she delusional concerning Henry and the time she uses up watching his past world? This a ghost story with a twist. Henry doesn't really haunt Tansy in the manner we're accustomed to reading about. In a sense it's Tansy who does the haunting since she's the one who becomes enamored of him and absorbed into his past. The book also delves into the complexities of relationships and families. Watching her once strong Papa Dan--a man you know she looked up and adored--become a shell of who he was as age and illness rob him of his faculties and vigor is touching. Tansy hates seeing him debilitate in front of her and their scenes together were genuinely moving.

There is also a love interest but the heart of this story rests with Tansy and her unraveling the mystery of why Henry killed himself. I found the story gripping and the ghostly world--the way the author shows it through the camera lense--unique and captivating. Archer's writing was lovely, her descriptions and style with words made me an instant fan. The pacing was steady and flowed well, and I became totally engrossed in both the present day world of Tansy's life and Henry's forgotten time. Fans of mysteries and ghost stories must check Through Her Eyes out.

Rating: ++++

Favorite excerpt: (from page 61, ARC)

"The image in the frame is completely still. Black, white, and gray. Like a photograph already shot. Snow dusts the scene like powdered sugar. A guy about my age occupies the space where Papa Dan stood only a moment ago. He wears a coat and a woolen scarf, an old-fashioned winter hat with ear flaps, heavy boots on his ffet. A sparrow hovers above him, paused in mid-flight. The mulberry tree seems smaller and the limbs are bare. On one of them, I see a faint, blurred silhouette--a second guy dressed in bulky clothing. The boy on the ground stares up a the guy in the tree, and the guy in the tree stares back, his eyes the only distinguishable feature in the white smudge of his face.

The wind has died. The birds no longer sing. I don't hear Mom's voice around the corner. Only silence. Adrenaline shoots through me, and my stomach flips over. I jerk the camera away from my face."

Cover comment: I like the cover, how it focuses so much on her face, in particular the eyes. I'm not sure about all the eye make-up, but it doesn't bother me. In particular, I really like how white her skin is, almost ghostly.

Book source: Around the World tours.

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