Saturday, December 1, 2007

Lily Dale: Awakening

Lily Dale: Awakening
by Wendy Corsi Straub
Walker Books
Reviewed by Melissa

Calla's perfect life is falling apart. Her boyfriend of two years broke up (by text message) with her in April (for another girl, she just knows it), and now her mother's died in a freak accident. That's bad enough, but her father had signed up to teach during a sabbatical at a university in California, and he wasn't originally planning on Calla and her mother joining him. So, Calla's going to have to go to Lily Dale to live with her grandmother Delia, whom she hasn't seen in 10 years (excepting the funeral of course).

Once in Lily Dale, weird things begin happening to Calla. She sees ghosts. She has nightmares. She smells flowers that aren't there. She hears noises coming from unwound music boxes. Sees the time on an unplugged clock. It doesn't help that Lily Dale is the "World's Largest Center for the Religion of Spiritualism". In other words, a hot-spot to connect with those not of this world. Her grandmother is one of "them": a medium. It takes Calla a while to deal with this information, but with all the things that keep happening to her, she begins wondering if she just might not be one of "them", too.

This book works on many levels: it's a book about loss and grief, but it's also a mystery and a ghost story. I thought Straub did an excellent job writing about Calla's grief over her mother, and being able to find comfort in other teenagers who have also lost their parents. There are a lot of tears in this book. And a lot of comparison to others. But, at the heart of it, I could believe that this is the way that this particular 17-year-old would deal with her mother's grief. But I never felt that the grief got the best of Calla; it never stopped her from being a proactive character.

Straub also packed the book with grumpiness and anger, which also could be tied to Calla's grief. She was angry at her mother for hiding her past, but also anger at the situation. At Lily Dale. Calla's disbelief at the whole psychic profession, treating her grandma's "profession" with skepticism and contempt, and her gradual acceptance of it was a believable process. If those "occurrences" happened to me, I might just believe I was psychic, too.

But, at its heart, this book is a ghost story and a mystery. Who are those ghosts that Calla keeps seeing? Why does the clock read 3:17, every time? What does her mother's past have to do with it all? What about the lake? Straub kept me hanging on the edge of my seat for the last third of the book. My only complaint is that just as Calla is beginning to figure it out, the book ends. Thankfully, there will be a sequel -- Lily Dale: Believing -- published in April, 2008. I, for one, want to know the answers.

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