Deception (Haunting Emma #1) by Lee Nichols
I’ve raved about this on Twitter a few times, because Lee Nichols somehow managed to write a novel that is exactly the kind of book I would have adored as a young adult (back when my reading material consisted largely of YA horror, with a sprinkling of Sweet Valley High) while still satisfying me as an adult reader. More than satisfied, actually, because I loved reading this book.
It’s not the first time Emma has been left on her own in San Francisco while her parents are on a business trip. It is, however, the first time she’s been so alone. Her older brother, Max, is a college student spending the semester overseas, her best friend is away starting her freshman year of college, and her parents’ sole employee suddenly resigns. But she’s getting by on her own just fine, even though she hasn’t been able to get in touch with her parents, until the police find out and turn Emma over to Child Protective Services.
Just as Emma is forced to choose between living with a foster family or at a halfway house, Bennett Stern appears. A college classmate of Max’s, Bennett claims to be Emma’s guardian and seems to have the legal papers to back him up. He takes Emma back to Massachusetts with him, returning to college while Emma in enrolled at Thatcher, an expensive prep school.
After her parents left on their trip, there were a few moments in which Emma thought her imagination was getting the better of her, when she thought she’d heard strange sounds or seen shadows moving in her home. And in Massachusetts, the feelings are getting stronger. Emma is having visions, seeing people no one else can see and sometimes even falling into the visions.
Okay, so the plot alone was enough to make me inclined to like Deception. But sometimes I’m harder on this kind of book, simply because I read so many of them when I was younger. Yet my only complaints about Deception are that I found the prologue completely unnecessary and that I would have loved it even more than I already do had this been a standalone instead of the first in a trilogy.
Yes, it’s the start of another paranormal trilogy. But even if you think you’re tired of paranormals or trilogies or paranormal trilogies, I urge you to give this one a try anyway. Nichols makes Deception seem fresh and intriguing. Her writing style is straightforward and extremely readable, so smooth and engaging that I was immediately drawn in and willing to buy into the storyline. I was hooked on Deception from the very first (okay, second) page and never wanted to put the book down. It’s fast-paced and exciting, a totally entertaining read, with a likable narrator and secondary characters I also came to care about (ohmygod, Sara!). Emma’s voice is smart and self-deprecating. There’s a hint of vulnerability to it, as she’s basically been abandoned by everyone she cares about, but she doesn’t mope or spend time feeling sorry for herself. She tries to deal with everything that happens to her and adapt to her new situation instead of letting herself become overwhelmed.
Nichols ties up nearly all of the plot threads, so you feel like you’ve actually read a complete novel, not just part of a novel. A few major questions are left open, and a new one introduced on the very last page, whetting the reader’s appetite for the next book while leaving the reader—or me, at least—still satisfied with the story contained in Deception while anxiously awaiting the next volume. I desperately want to know what happens next.
Deception will be published on June 8.
Suzie Townsend is giving away a copy of Deception on her blog, so if you’d like to get your hands on a copy, head over there and enter the contest by May 30.
Book source: ARC from publisher
* After the recent discussions about YA romance, and particularly romances in paranormal fiction, I kind of feel like I have a responsibility, as a blogger, to discuss the—feminist and romantic merits?—of YA books with a romantic element. I consider Deception to be paranormal fiction with a romantic subplot, not a romance. So far, at least. With this said, Deception gets a pass from me because *okay, I can’t figure out how to discuss it without possible spoilers (though if they are spoilers, they’re really, really tiny ones), so highlight to read, just to be safe* even though Emma has had a crush on Bennett for a couple of years, she doesn’t try to make excuses for his behavior and the times he neglects her or doesn’t trust her. She knows she deserves better. Though Bennett does have a pretty good explanation for it at the end of the book, I’ll give him that. Emma doesn’t romanticize his actions or view them as proof of how much he cares for her, but instead tries, albeit unsuccessfully, to use them as reasons to stop liking him. And as both try to deny their feelings until the very end of the story, I’m reserving judgment about the lust vs. love and telling vs. showing issues until later. *end possible spoilers*