Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Book Review: Sharon Sala's "My Lunatic Life"

Tara Luna already has her typical teenage problems – friendships, relationships, identity, and being the new kid in the high school. She also has her fair share of unique issues: Tara can see ghosts, non-Sixth Sense style. And, to top it off, she’s also psychic and can’t tell anyone for fear of being called crazy. But then Tara stumbles onto a deadly vision, a kidnapping, and a murder mystery in her new town and suddenly she must start talking or other people might feel the consequences. Sharon Sala’s My Lunatic Life, the first in her new Lunatic series, brings the reader some big-time adventures in a small-time town.

Structure: 3 out of 5 stars

Readers discover Tara’s gifts in the first few pages and just go with it. The author offers some of the stereotypical obstacles in the teenage protagonist’s way – the trio of rude cheerleaders, the cryptic mixed-signals from the bad boy, the struggles to fit in – but then also a slew of craziness, including a dead body, an unforeseen friendship, and a fire. While I enjoyed the twists and turns, I found some of the plot too easy for Tara. As challenges arise, the book’s heroine always has the solution and, if anyone questions her, she tells the simple truth: “I’m psychic” or “I’m talking to a ghost.” Even if characters don’t believe her with that one line, they do after the next few lines she says. I find it hard to understand that no one questions her abilities, nor tell others about her gifts. If the author presented more conflict with her powers, the story would run much more smoothly.

Character: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Tara has spent her entire life on the move, and her subsequent tough persona is quite satisfying. She doesn’t tolerate any nonsense from anyone, including sassy classmates, the popular crowd, or even the authorities. The readers love learning about Henry and Millicent, Tara’s ghost friends. Because of the protagonist’s psychic powers, the reader also enjoys the brief but telling information snippets Tara sees in the students, teachers, and friends around her. Through the main character’s head, we discover past experiences and quirks about all secondary characters.

But I didn’t know enough about the closest folks in Tara’s life – how did Henry and Millicent find the protagonist, and what are their respective stories? Why is her Uncle Pat always on the move? How did Tara herself react when she realized her powers? I like the author’s unique use of exposition, but it needs further development.

Voice: 4 out of 5 stars

In a similar way to learning character stories from Tara’s visions, the reader also hears multiple character voices, even though the story is only told from the heroine’s perspective. As the protagonist, Tara has a strong, distinctive voice, albeit it often floats into a slightly stereotypical teenage girl voice (using phrases like, “so not cool,” etc). These slips somewhat detract from Tara’s power as a fierce female. In the same way, the voice of Flynn O’Mara (Tara’s boyfriend) will shift from passionate and gentle to nonchalant and rough, almost as if the author wants to make sure readers remember Flynn is still a teenage boy. As a strong secondary character, Flynn’s appeal would intensify if the author had consistently made his character fiercely sensitive throughout.

Overall, My Lunatic Life is a quick lighthearted delight. The book was published in August 2011 by BelleBooks in the UK. The next novel in the installment, Lunatic Detective, was released shortly afterwards in November 2011.

To read more about author Sharon Sala, check out her website.

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