From School Library Journal
Grade 9 Up–Helen died 130 years ago as a young woman. Unable to enter heaven because of a sense of guilt she carried at death, she has been silent and invisible but conscious and sociable across the generations. Her spirit has been sustained by its attachment to one living human host after another, including a poet and, most recently, a high-school English teacher. While she sits through his class one day, she becomes aware of James and he–unlike the mortals all around them–is aware of her as well. James, who also died years earlier, inhabits the body of a contemporary teen, Billy. James and Helen fall in love, he shows her how to inhabit the body of a person whose spirit has died but who still lives and breathes, and the two begin to unfold the mysteries of their own pasts and those of their adolescent hosts. Jenny, whose body Helen now uses, is the only child of strict religious parents who controlled her beyond what her spirit could endure. Billy's spirit left his body after a string of tragedies resulting from drug abuse and domestic violence. James and Helen court in both modern and old-fashioned ways; here is a novel in which explicit sex is far from gratuitous or formulaic. Whitcomb writes with a grace that befits Helen's more modulated world while depicting contemporary society with sharp insight. In the subgenre of dead-narrator tales, this book shows the engaging possibilities of immortality–complete with a twist at the end that wholly satisfies.–Francisca Goldsmith, Berkeley Public Library, CA
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Gr. 9-12. In sensuous prose, Helen, who has been dead for 130 years, describes what it's like to live as Light, clinging to a human host, then reentering an empty human body and becoming physically and emotionally attuned to the world. Helen is startled when she realizes that a student in her host's English class can see her. James, too, is Light, but he has taken over the body of Billy, who almost overdosed on drugs. Their joy at finding one another turns quickly to love, and James helps Helen locate an empty body that she can inhabit. Fellow student Jennifer seems the perfect choice, but the unhappiness in her fundamentalist family, as well as the chaos of Billy's household, mix uneasily with the pleasures the spirits are rekindling. Whitcomb writes beautifully, especially when she is describing the physical delights of sexual love and the horror the spirits endure as they fight through their personal hells to reach the other side. Unfortunately, her stereotypical portrayal of a Christian family is so unnuanced that it jars when juxtaposed with the rest of the writing. Still, in many ways this will be irresistible to teens. Watch for more from Whitcomb. Ilene CooperCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved