Review: The Wraith by Arielle Strauss

The Wraith by Arielle StraussOphelia Weller never believed in ghosts until the night she became one. But when the aftermath of a frat party on the most haunted campus in America leaves her face to face with her own naked corpse, she really has no other option. Now a wraith, Ophelia is a spirit hidden amongst the living.

Forced to conceal her undead identity from the world, and struggling to remain visible to the humans around her, how will she ever manage to convince her dearest friend of the truth? Or muster the courage to tell her beautiful gym partner that she just may be in love with her? And, with no memory of her death, how will Ophelia solve the mystery of her murder?

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Review

I realised the other day I rarely read ghost stories. My ideas of ghost stories are limited to the urban legends you hear as a child, or teen, and what’s available in horror movies. All-in-all I have a basic idea of ghost stories being horribly funny, disturbingly thrilling, or just all ’round traumatising. When I couple the idea of ghost stories with young adult fiction, I begin to imagine instances of love triangles, out of control hormones and powers, and plenty of angst.

I can’t help it. I’ve read too much atypical young adult fiction. Even if The Wraith had turned out to be all of the above, I would have appreciated it for the change of concept and powers. Thankfully it didn’t turn out to be all of the above and I rather enjoyed the concept for what it was and not just for a change of pace.

There were some awkwardly written scenes in the beginning. When Ophelia discovered her invisibility and her roommates were speaking about her and her whereabouts, the dialogue was on the over-descriptive side. There was also the scene of having Ophelia’s sexuality confirmed for the reader. Personally I found it jarring and could have gone without the statement from Ophelia’s best mate Todd, but then again I am in a same-sex relationship so… maybe my thoughts are expected. Fortunately the story found its rhythm at just the right time and the awkward scenes abated.

I greatly appreciated how Ophelia came to terms with her deathly state. It wasn’t a clean and simple process, like so many other ‘sudden state of change’ a protagonist can go through in young adult fiction. Instead she struggled, she began to accept, but then she’d question it. It was a roller coaster for her, but not over the top and to the point of cliché.

Early on I had an inkling as to whom Ophelia’s murderer was, but the red herring was well placed and made me question my initial conclusion. In the end the discovery of the crime was played out really well and I think the crime itself added to the atmosphere of the story. The atmosphere came across as sorrowful for me and so many aspects of the protagonist’s journey, as well as her interactions with other characters, only made the story more so.

Of course I have to comment on the character’s sexuality. It’s refreshing when you can read a story with a LGBT character and not have them stereotyped in any way, or overly celebrated. I have read stories where there’s a humiliating mix of stereotype and self-congratulations for including something other than expected. My impression was Ophelia is attracted to women and big deal that she is. She’s a person (in a matter of speaking), she has feelings for someone else, and her sexuality only impacts the story in the ways it should. This is both a relief to me and a pleasant surprise.

I enjoyed the love story. At first it came across as too fast for me, maybe with the ability to be tipped into the insta-love realm, but I think there was a lovely interplay of innocence and maturity with Ophelia and Lenora. The love story didn’t overtake the main plot and I love that they met in a kickboxing class. I love how there was no instances of lacking self-esteem being cured by a love interest. Sure the relationship of Lenora and Ophelia advanced the story and influenced the characters, but it was only one element of the entire picture.

I think The Wraith could have been longer, but I’m happy for where it ended and how it ended. I’m thoroughly looking forward to getting my hands on the sequel and want to discover how Ophelia’s state of being evolves.

One thought on “Review: The Wraith by Arielle Strauss

  1. I’ve (finally) read Lake Thirteen just a few days back and that one was a ghost story, but on a whole I’m not a big consumer of ghosts stories either. Most of the time they are just too sad/tragic and yes traumatising for me. But this one sounds kinda interesting so I’ll add it to my “maybe” pile for now. Great review!

    Btw, you should sign up for LGBT Month too: http://nijiclovers.blogspot.com/p/lgbt-month.html
    There are a lot prizes and by linking up this review (http://nijiclovers.blogspot.com/2014/04/lgbt-month-kick-offgiveaway-2014-ya.html) you’d already qualify for this week’s draw 😉

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