The reckless afterlife of Harriet Stoker by Lauren James

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Walker Books, 2020. ISBN: 9781406391121.
(Age: 14+) Recommended. What a unique ride! There are ghosts with strong powers surviving the afterlife in a desolate building and then there is Harriet Stoker a newly formed ghost, determined to return home to her grandmother, no matter the cost to everyone around her. Chaos reigns as she exploits the little group of friends who have made a family for themselves in the afterlife. There is Rima, with her fox spirit Cody, Felix who is in love with the oblivious Kasper, and Leah and her baby Claudia, all who have bonded together. They are willing to accept Harriet into their group and help her adjust to the afterlife, but Harriet has no qualms about pursuing everyone's powers and making them her own.
The plot has many twists and turns and keeps the reader engrossed, trying to work out just what is going on and whether Harriet will destroy many of the ghosts in the building. There are clues left for the observant reader, but many, many surprises as Harriet ploughs through the spirits in the building, not caring who she hurts on the way.
Told in multiple voices of Harriet and the group of friends, with the addition of an unidentified narrator, this clever and compulsive story richly describes each of the individuals and gives insight into their personalities, strengths and weaknesses and the life they lead. Although Harriet is flawed, the reader can identify with the way that her grandmother has brought her up, emphasising a selfish outlook on life, and even when appalled at her actions can still feel some sympathy for her. The relationship between Felix and Kasper is beautifully handled and even baby Claudia is a stunning character.
This is a ghost story like no other I have read. James has the capacity to write engrossing stories that beg to be read in a couple of sittings, while at the same time examining some thought provoking themes. In this novel she looks at good versus evil and the ethics of an individual selfishly using other people and their powers, and whether individuals are accountable for their own actions or can blame how they are brought up and the power of fear.
An original ghost story, this thriller is sure to appeal to fans of the supernatural genre.
Pat Pledger