by Paula Morris
A native New Yorker, Rebecca is being shipped off to New Orleans to live with her “Aunt” Claudia while her dad goes on business to China for six months. Aunt Claudia isn’t really her aunt but she’s the closest thing Rebecca and her father have to family, despite the fact Rebecca’s only met Aunt Claudia and her daughter, Aurelia, once. It doesn’t take long for Rebecca to realize that she doesn’t like New Orleans. She can’t stand the constantly gray skies, the warm, damp air, or the odd smells and she can’t stand the snooty girls who go to her new private school. In New York, how old your money was or your family’s lineage didn’t matter, neither did skin color or ethnicity. In New Orleans, specifically in the neighborhood Rebecca is living in, money and family lines mean everything, more than Rebecca knows, more than anyone will tell her. One of the only people with whom Rebecca feels most comfortable, one of the people she would call a friend is not a person at all, but a ghost. Lisette is a young black woman about Rebecca’s age. She haunts the cemetery across the street from Aunt Claudia’s house and she has a sad, gruesome history. The other person who has been nice to Rebecca is a heart-throb named Anton. He is one of the elite but he seems to strain against his familial bonds and is interested in knowing and being involved with life outside the sheltered streets of his New Orleans neighborhood. Ultimately, though, Rebecca is an outsider, and the families of the neighborhood do not take kindly to outsiders. Secrets and mysteries shroud the mansions, and one of the most volatile of the mysteries is tied to Lisette, her life and her death. Rebecca’s friendships with both Lisette and Anton are about to bring about some serious and dangerous consequences.
Reaction: Overall, a pretty solid ghost story. The setting was perfect. I loved the scenes in the cemetery — Rebecca sneaking in at night to see what her stuck up classmates are up to or visiting during the day to hunt down and talk to Lisette. I also loved when Rebecca and Lisette walked together, hand-in-hand through New Orleans and Lisette introduces some of New Orleans’ plethora of ghosts to Rebecca. Some had been around longer than Lisette, some were new, all had sad stories, though some much worse than others. The saddest part about this walk, to me, was that some of the ghosts were stuck haunting stretches of land that at one time were filled with houses or prosperous businesses but are now highways or abandoned warehouses. In places, the writing could have been a bit tighter and I thought a few of the characters acted a bit young for their age, but I was intrigued by the mysteries and histories of the prosperous families and Lisette’s sad tale and was frantically trying to figure out what exactly Rebecca’s role was in it all.
I did have one semi-big, spoilery complaint(ish) (did I just use any real words??). Here it is, so read at your own risk:
I didn’t understand why Rebecca’s dad would let her go to New Orleans. He and his wife completely severed ties with their families and changed their identity and Rebecca’s birth date and year to try to protect her. If he went such great lengths to avoid the curse and keep anyone from New Orleans from finding them, why would he listen to Aunt Claudia and let Rebecca live in New Orleans and let the curse run it’s course? Doesn’t make sense, at least to me.
There were several points, like the one above, that seemed forced, like the author was trying too hard to make the story work. In the end, these didn’t detract too much from the many good points of the novel, and if you enjoy a good, spooky, ghosty thriller, give Ruined a chance.
One final thought: the cover. Gorgeous, right? And if you look up pictures of the Lafayette Cemetery, the gates on the cover are much like the gates to the actual cemetery in New Orleans. I have one problem, though. The ghost on the cover looks like a blond white woman in a negligee. The ghost in the story is a teenaged black girl with a torn white blouse and a black skirt. Is this another case of whitewashing covers?? (read about the Liar controversy if you haven’t already) Sad, very, very sad.
Thanks to: Carrie, whose review made me want to read the book.