Friday, January 4, 2013

Review: Beyond: A Ghost Story

Beyond: A Ghost StoryAuthor: Graham McNamee
Published: January 3rd 2013
Publisher: Hodder Children's
Paperback, 257 pages
Source: Publisher for review
Buy: The Book Depository

Beyond is the second young adult book by a Canadian male author I’ve read in the last year (first was The Repossession by Sam Hawksmoor), they were both published by Hodder, and they’re both original and refreshing. I’m even more picky and difficult with horror than I am with steampunk, which is why I’m especially happy to report that the horror parts of this story met my extremely high standards. But I’m getting ahead of myself here…

Jane is afraid of her own shadow… literally. Every time she faces any kind of danger, her mind goes numb and her shadow takes control, moving Jane’s body towards peril instead of away from it. If there’s one thing Jane can be sure of, it’s that she’s not making it up; her best friend Lexi witnessed her shadow trying to force her to throw herself in front of a train. But since it’s not a story she can actually share without ensuring a bed in the psychiatric ward, everyone including her parents thinks she’s suicidal. It’s up to Lexi and Jane to find a pattern and discover the mystery and horror behind Jane’s shadow.

Although Beyond wasn’t without its problems, the idea behind it was thrilling and so very original. It was unlike anything I’ve read before, and the mystery kept me on my toes until the very end. It wasn’t easy to even try to guess the outcome of this, or the solution to the mystery, and the premise behind it was simply exhilarating. There’s nothing creepier than being threatened by your own shadow… it’s the only thing you can never hide from, and seeing it take over, start moving on its own and even control your movements is a waking nightmare. *shudders* Poor Jane.

The writing style was also fairly unusual. McNamee prefers short sentences that create a steady staccato rhythm; in that, he reminded me of Lisa McMann, whose Wake trilogy I happen to like very much. Generally, I adore this sort of thing – any peculiarity in someone’s style is enough to keep me interested and fascinated even when the plot becomes tiresome. McNamee wasn’t consistent enough to be truly impressive like McMann, but his writing still made the book more memorable for me.

However, I don’t understand why Jane couldn’t have been a teenage boy instead. The story would have worked just as well, if not better, from a male point of view, and quite frankly, McNamee knows about teenage girls about as much as I know about quantum mechanics. Jane and Lexi both thought and acted more like adolescent boys than sixteen-year-old girls, and this was especially apparent in their romantic endeavors. That is not how girls think about boys, Mr. McNamee, not even close, and that is not how girls talk to each other. Suffice it to say that changing this to a male protagonist wouldn’t take much work at all – a simple name change (from Jane to John, since we’re being original and all) would be enough. No other modifications necessary, the voice is already distinctly male. This, too, is the second time that I’ve encountered this problem lately, the first being Vesper by Jeff Sampson.

Nevertheless, few books truly scare me anymore, and Beyond made me want to sleep with my lights on for the first time in many months. McNamee is an excellent horror author with a unique style, but he should definitely stick with male protagonists from now on, in which case I’ll probably read whatever he writes next.


  1. It's a little awkward that the voice, which comes across as male, is actually female, but that aside, this sounds so intriguing. I love the idea and concept and while I'm not one for horror - a Gryffindor I most definitely am NOT - I think I might give this one a shot. Amazing review, as usual, Maja! :)

  2. Amazing review Maja. Too bad you only gave it 3 stars though! For me this sounds like the perfect book so thanks for adding another one to my tbr list :)
    -Kimberly @ Turning the Pages

  3. Horror is not my thing for sure but I'm happy that someone enjoys it :) I haven't seen this book before and I am probably going to pass this train but thanks for this really nice review :)

  4. Hmmmm. I'm not a big reader of horror because I am a massive wimp, but I'm curious enough about how he writes these teenage girls that I kind of want to give this one a try. I wonder why he chose to make them girls instead of boys when it doesn't make much of a difference to the plot. Maybe it was the challenge of writing what he didn't know? Too bad it didn't quite work in this book. Thanks for your thoughts Maja!

  5. Now I'm interested in how this author portrayed Jane to make you say this is not how girls think. This does sound orignal and I love horror. I might have to give this a shot. Wonderful review Maja. :)

  6. How interesting. Curious about how the females are portrayed now. I like the idea of just switching genders especially if it is already written that way. Great idea. Now, I'll be reading it with that in mind. :)

  7. What you don't know anything about Quantum Physics? I agree if an author is writing the opposite sex and they don't get it right then it fails, but what an interesting concept for sure. This has peaked my interest! Have a wonderful weekend!

  8. Despite your problems with the voice, this book sounds very unique and scary. Imagine that you are threated by your own shadow.. I can't wait to find out what's going on :) Nice review.


  9. Ooh, I love a good book that can scare me!! It's so intriguing that this book made you sleep with your lights on when so many other books couldn't, I'm always looking for a scary and creepy book like that. ;) Even though the protagonist and voice were distinctly male, when the characters were female, I still think I'd enjoy this one. The concept and mystery sound too intriguing for me to skip this one!

    Fantastic review Maja! <3 You've totally piqued my interest in this book!

  10. Oh my! Is it wrong that I'm more interested in the idea of 16 year old girls behaving like teen boys? ;-) Not really, I suspect that would actually irritate me.

    The blurb definitely caught my attention - the idea of my shadow battling me, shudder.

    Lovely review, Maja.

  11. Ooh yeah, that concept really does sound creepy and exhilarating! I definitely haven't read anything like it before either, so kudos to the author! Less good is the fact that you could so easily put a male protagonist in the place of the girl protagonist. Yup, that would annoy me, too! Still, sounds good overall though - I will add it to my "maybe" tbr, thanks!!

  12. I so agree with you on this one, I read and reviewed this back in October for US release and it was such an original story. Awesome review!

  13. I'm always looking for books from Canadian authors but since the girls sound like boys in this one, I'll probably check it out from the library. I'm curious to find out how the author portrays his girls now.

    This isn't too creepy is it? Lol, I'm a huge scaredy-cat and avoid horror at all costs.

  14. I haven't read many books by Canadian authors but this one intrigues me! The book sounds quite scary too. I'll have to add this to my TBR pile ASAP since I also adored Lisa McMann's Wake trilogy ;)

    Awesome review, Maja ♥ So glad you enjoyed it!


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