Sixteen-year-old Anna sees things from another world, the spiritual world, a skill that isn’t exactly useful in high school. It’s bad enough that her mother, possessed by a demon, took her own life when Anna was a child, a loss she remains tortured by. Now her father makes his living “clearing” haunted objects, and Anna’s job as his assistant makes her a social misfit. Most kids in her suburban New Jersey town refer to her just as “Goblin Girl.”
Only Freddy and Dor remain loyal friends. But Anna’s so focused on her own problems, she’s missed that her connection with Freddy is moving beyond the friend zone.
As junior year approaches, a rare solar storm lights up the night skies and the citizens of Bloomtown begin to act strangely: Anna’s teachers lash out, her best friends withdraw, and the school bullies go from mean to murderous. When Anna realizes she can harness this evil power, she sets out to save Bloomtown and the only family she has left.
But to do so, she must keep her own increasingly dark urges at bay.
Anna is tough and opinionated and the narrative is very witty at times. Although her mother’s possession by a demon, her subsequent death, and the fact that Anna can never escape the stigma of her father’s work as a paranormal investigator have hardened her, Anna is believable and I liked her most of the time. The high school Anna and her two best friends, Freddy and Doreen, attend is mean. These kids, and certain teachers, are the type that makes headlines for bullying and sexual assault. The people at school were scarier than the Trickster spirits and Shadow Men that Anna deals with on a semi-regular basis.
Many aspects of the magic system are familiar, such as the use of salt and holy water as supernatural pest prevention. I liked that Anna and her father had to cleanse spirits in accordance to the entity’s own spiritual beliefs, but the best part was the incorporation of a scientific element through Electromagnetic Fields, their effects, and the ways paranormal beings can manipulate them. It’s also refreshing to have characters admit that they don’t know everything, and that there’s no way to find the answers to questions like where demons come from. However, I did find it odd that Jack had to buy holy water when he might’ve been able to get it from a priest instead.
The Ghosthunter’s Daughter also highlights mental health issues through various different characters. Jack’s hoarding is…wow. When Anna went into the basement, I was stunned. As funny as Anna’s bitterly sarcastic jokes about Jack’s Crap are, Flarity still conveys the desperation and compulsivity of Jack’s hoarding with heart-breaking clarity. It’s also damn good to read a book that raises the topic of the negative psychological effects of pornography.
The overall sense of realism in The Ghosthunter’s Daughter, good pacing, and intriguing plot made this a tough novel to put down. I highly recommend it.
Book provided via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review