Notes from Ghost Town by Kate Ellison

Notes from Ghost Town by Kate Ellison
Edgmont USA | Hardcover, 336 pages
February 12, 2013
Young Adult | Mystery | Suspense
Rating: 2 out of 5 Stars

I struggled with this book; it turns out, I don’t have the capacity to be patient when the book I’m reading contains a much more evolved mystery. And boy, did this book ever tried my patience.

Quick Story:

Notes from Ghost Town is a story about a girl whose realization that she was in love with her best friend came a little too late. Because a week after they kissed, he was murdered. As if that’s not enough to push her into a tailspin of emotional and mental chaos, the accused murderer (and admitted guilty party) was her mother.

Olivia Tithe is a talented painter; but when a sudden onslaught of colour blindness took away her ability to paint, she lost interest in everything else: food tasted bland and everything turned grey. A week or so before her mother’s sentencing, she starts seeing the ghost of Lucas Stern, her best friend. Proof that she’s well on her way to insanity. She’s always known it’s in her blood; after all, her mother is suffering from Schizophrenia herself, and why she admitted to being guilty of killing Stern. But Olivia knows her mother is innocent. She could never kill a boy whom she’d loved as though he were her own son. She has nine days to prove her innocence, but with everyone dissuading her from delving further, it will be difficult to find a someone who would sympathize. Time is running out for her mother, and for Lucas, who is slowly sinking into a realm where the restless dead exist without peace.

My Thoughts:

I didn’t think it would be possible to grow bored with a mystery novel. It’s supposed to keep you flipping the pages until you unravel all its intricacies. At first, I was genuinely vested in the story. But as time goes by, my interest started waning.

I know a good mystery novel does not reveal its secrets until you get closer to the bitter end. Notes from Ghost Town certainly accomplished that. But for an impatient reader like me, it became a painful practice in the art of waiting – waiting for the story to unravel; waiting for the characters to reveal their true selves.

Herein lies the frustration I have with this novel; which, to be honest is probably the same reason it works for fans of this genre. It was stingy with clues; it gave no hints, and gave away no suspects. Oh don’t get me wrong, the author threw me a bone; but if clues were bones, she gave me a stirrup (smallest bone in the human body). As such, it wasn’t substantial enough for me to bite. It took away the enjoyment of solving the mystery in the midst of reading, and as a result, I grew bored.

Olivia, while she was a fantastic actualization of a girl on the cusp of possibly losing her mind, was a little hard to reach. She didn’t appeal to my sense of empathy, to be honest. She was a mixture of a lot of things but nothing definite.

The grey space that Olivia found herself was something I didn’t enjoy reading. I don’t know how a kiss could bring on such a dramatic change to her world. Was the kiss that good that it spurred on such a drastic/traumatic reaction? Not to mention it’s the equivalent to an injury suffered by a blunt force trauma to the head? Perhaps it’s to add on to the sense that she’s completely losing her mind? However, it felt unnecessary to me. As if seeing Stern’s ghost is not enough to warrant a trip to her therapist’s couch.

The novel itself seems a little disorganized, and lacking – from its characters to the small arches that encompasses the entirety of the story as a whole – I felt dissatisfied over all.

If you’re a true lover of mystery novels in a Young Adult milieu, this book is probably more your forte. I’m not saying I don’t enjoy a mystery novel from time to time, but it has to sustain my interest throughout.

  • Hah, I totally get why you didn't like this book, but I feel like this one might still work for me! I like the slow reveals sometimes, although writing styles like this could easily go either way.

    Wendy @ The Midnight Garden

  • Right, I think I'll skip this one, J., despite such a lovely cover 🙂

  • Wow, I haven't heard of this one but the concept sounds great. So I'm sorry it wasn't that great for you :/ I love mystery but if this didn't really hold your attention I don't think I'd love it either.
    Thanks for the honest review!

  • Lovely review Joy, it sounds like this one was a bit too frustrating as a mystery without throwing us a bone or anything.

    Jeann @ Happy Indulgence

  • This one would have frustrated me too. I struggle with reads that don't drive me to turn each page. I don't sit back and enjoy writing just to enjoy writing. That's just me though.

  • Mysteries where NONE of the secrets are revealed until the end bug me too. There should be some hints along the way!

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

  • I hate mystery novels that pretend to keep everything a secret until the very end… Honestly it's just annoying because it's as if you were only reading about the character's daily lives and nothing else. Too bad this wasn't as good as you expected it to be. Great review!
    -Marianne

  • This book looks really interesting! I'm sorry you didn't end up liking it. 🙁 Great review!

  • Aw. Amazing review Joy. <3 I'm sorry you didn't like it. But yeah. I read the summary, and gah. It would not be a book for me either. Thank you so much for being honest. <3

  • The whole fun part to a mystery is getting the clues and feeling like you're figuring it out along the way. If the author is stingy with those clues it's hard to feel part of things and often the final reveal is less than satisfying. Sorry this didn't work for you, Joy. Great honest review. 🙂

  • I hate it when YA mysteries do that but I'm usually a patient reader at time so I like seeing the pieces fall together. The review and cover are great!

    Patrick @ The Bookshelves

  • ah yes it's surprising to be bored in a novel like that I agree. I was curious about this one because of the synopsis but now I think I'll pass, it's maybe not for me… sorry it was a disappointing one…

  • Huh, I haven't read much about this one, but it looks like I'm not missing much. I'm not a big fan of mystery anyways, but I sometimes pick them up out of curiosity. And sometimes I even like them. But, if this one couldn't keep you interested I doubt it will do so for me. Great review Joy!

  • I have yet to read a mystery- a YA mystery that I enjoyed. I seldom read them as it, that it needs to be fantastic to keep me reading. I don't think I had heard of this one prior to this review and I don't think I'll be adding it to my TBR any time soon.

    Thanks for the review.

  • I liked this one much more than you did, but it is kind of deflating when the love interest is dead.
    I agree, sometimes YA mysteries leave a lot to be desired — I'm always looking for a great one!
    Thanks so much for stopping by! Jen @ YA Romantics

  • Oh I'm sorry that this book didn't live up to your expectations Joy, after reading the blurb, it sounded like this book would truly deliver a solid novel. But like you I too like my mystery novels, but more so when they keep me guessing, but at the same time have me interested in finding out more. I can understand how this book let you down in that respect 🙁 Thanks for your honest opinion!

  • OK, I'm going to be honest with you, if you want a good solid mystery, YA is not the genre to look for that. Every YA mystery book I've read has sucked and this doesn't seem to be the exception. I don't know what it is about them, but I haven't found one where the mystery was well-written enough to keep me from enjoying the book.
    I'm sorry that this didn't work for you, Joy. It sounds like the author didn't plan her story well which must have led to the disarrayed plot. It's a shame!
    I hope your next read is a solid one!

  • Honestly, I'm a huge fan of the YA mystery and I couldn't get into this novel at all. I tried to read it a couple of times, and just never got very far. I'm happy that I didn't waste my time as it doesn't sound like it improves. Great review!