Title: The Things She’s Seen
Author(s): Ambelin & Ezekiel Kwaymullina
Genre: YA Paranormal Fiction
Number of Pages: 224
Beth Teller is dead. She’s not sure why she hasn’t ‘moved on’ yet, but her police officer father is the only person who can see her ghost and she’s decided she probably needs to help him find closure. Beth is a mixed-race Aborigine who’s white dad lives in Australia and who’s mother died years ago.
Her dad can’t seem to cope with the crushing grief and guilt of losing his wife and his daughter and Beth tries to distract him by helping him solve a particularly troubling case- the possible arson of school for troubled young people (particularly Aborigines) and the murder of several staff members. A seemingly irrational young woman was there that night, and when Beth realizes she can speak to her she starts doing some investigating of her own.
I usually read realistic YA fiction more than the paranormal stuff but this book really got my attention because of the cool premise. There are a lot of novels that have made use of the ‘dead narrator’ concept but I’ve never seen it done like this, with the dead protagonist helping a bereaved loved one solve a mystery. I thought the authors did a really good job using alternate viewpoint chapters (between Beth and the hospitalized witness, Catching) and how effectively they made them stand out from each other.
I wasn’t quite sure what was happening throughout most of this book and the build-up made it a pretty great page-turner. The main thing I didn’t like was the ending, and how it felt abrupt and left me with a LOT of unanswered questions. I’m not saying the more horrific aspects of the crime should have been portrayed graphically, but I thought they were a little too ambiguous because even at the very end I was somewhat unclear on what had happened.
I think my favorite element of this novel was the father-daughter relationship and I think the story was important in a way because it shows racism toward Aboriginals in Australia and how they’re sometimes treated like second-class citizens even though they were there first (sound familiar?) It’s not one-dimensional with everybody in a position of power being bad but it shows how people who are not given a chance to advocate for themselves can be exploited by opportunists who don’t give much credence to the value of human life.
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