By Author / Illustrator
Walker Books Ltd
Paperback / softback
When Harriet Stoker dies after falling from a balcony in a long-abandoned building, she discovers a world of ghosts with magical powers - shape-shifting, hypnosis, even the ability to possess the living. Felix, Kasper, Rima and Leah welcome her into their world, eager to make friends with the new arrival.
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.
Harriet Stoker visits derelict Mulcture Hall to take photographs for a college project. While exploring, she trips and falls to her death. She 'awakes' to find that she is a ghost, and is surrounded by the ghosts of other young people who have all previously died in the building. Harriet befriends Rima, Leah, Kaspar and Felix, and they help her to navigate the strange world she now finds herself occupying. Harriet cannot leave Mulcture Hall - if she does she will disintegrate - but she is desperate to return to her grandmother's house. She will do anything to gain the power and energy to leave, and her determination to do so leads her down a very dark path.
The Reckless Afterlife of Harriet Stoker is a well-written, exciting story, with many twists and turns. It encompasses a multitude of themes including the afterlife and reincarnation. Harriet is a complex character, at times it is difficult to like her or to feel sympathy for her as she is selfish and disloyal to her friends and carries out terrible acts without remorse. It is unusual that the author makes her leading lady so evil - but this only makes Harriet more compelling.
The story is told in short sections, each from the point of view of a different character. This is a clever device which, as well as moving the book along at a fast pace, allows us to learn more about each of the main protagonists. There are also sections told by an unnamed character; we only learn who this is in the later stages of the book. This adds an extra air of mystery to the tale.
The other characters in the book are all well drawn; Rima is brave and loyal. The relationship between Felix and Kaspar is beautifully observed, and the reader is allowed into the minds of each boy as they become closer. The evil Tricksters, Rufus and Vini, who live in the basement of the hall, are terrifying creatures. Harriet becomes involved with them in her search for power, and they are responsible for Harriet becoming the villain of the story.
The book has several sections describing fights between the ghosts which are graphic and violent. The author does not hold back in showing how cruelly the ghosts behave towards one another and these scenes are exciting and well-written, but are also quite gruesome. They are all in keeping with the story but some younger readers could find them upsetting.
The book comes to a satisfying conclusion, with all loose ends cleverly tied up. I really enjoyed this book - it is original and exciting and I would not hesitate to recommend it to older readers aged 14+.
432 pages / Reviewed by Beverley Somerset, school librarian
Suggested Reading Age 14+