“You poke at evil with a stick… never use your fingers.” – Envy by Gregg Olsen
And I believe there is a direct correlation between the commercial success of these YA science fiction/fantasy sagas and the ever-increasing popularity of comparable “adult” novels, especially those categorized as paranormal fantasy. It doesn’t matter how old – or young – you are, experiencing a novel that is powered by supernatural atmospherics and audaciously blends elements of fantasy, mystery, horror, post-apocalyptic fiction, etc. is undeniably appealing – readers never know what they’re going to get! How many teenaged readers are fans of “adult” paranormal fantasy series like Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse saga or Kim Harrison’s Hollows novels or Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files? My guess would be a lot.
Set in the historic town of Port Gamble, Washington – a town that is pretty on the outside but that hides unspeakable evils behind its doors – the protagonists are Hayley and Taylor Ryan, the teenaged daughters of a crime writer father and a mother who works as a psychiatric nurse in a mental hospital. Hayley and Taylor seem like normal 15-year old girls – except that they have strange psychic abilities:
When a former friend of the twins, a girl named Katelyn Berkley, is found dead in her bathtub – she apparently committed suicide by electrocuting herself – Hayley and Taylor both sense that Katelyn did not kill herself. The twins, very much their father’s girls, take it upon themselves to uncover the truth. Their investigation reveals some unlikely suspects – Starla “Superstarla” Larsen, Port Gamble’s “It Girl,” a self-absorbed cheerleader whose beauty is most definitely only skin deep; Jake Damon, the bad-boy lover of Starla’s mother with a shadowy past; and a mysterious online friend who may or may not be real…
If you know a teen reader who enjoys his or her literary escapism paranormal-powered and decidedly dark, Olsen’s Empty Coffin saga (Betrayal will be released in the fall of 2012) will more than fit the bill. Remember the names – Hayley and Taylor Ryan may soon be as popular as iconic female teen protagonists like Bella Swan, Hermione Granger and Katniss Everdeen…
Paul Goat Allen has been a full-time book reviewer specializing in genre fiction for the last two decades and has written thousands of reviews for companies like Publishers Weekly, The Chicago Tribune, Kirkus Reviews, and BarnesandNoble.com. He is a member of the National Book Critics Circle.
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