Ruined is a YA ghost story written by Paula Morris.
When fifteen-year-old Rebecca's father tells her that he is sending her to live with a faux-relative in New Orleans for part of the school year instead of going with him to China on his business trip, she's confused and hurt. It's just been the two of them since her mother died when she was very young, and they've never been apart nearly as long as he's suggesting. In fact, it appears that this decision pains him as well. Yet, before she knows it, Rebecca is settling in the post-Katrina New Orleans.
Though her tarot card reading "aunt" seems kind, her house is creepy - full of odd dolls and sculptures from different cultures, the sort of thing you don't want to stumble across when you want a glass of water in the middle of the night. Then there's the preppy, superrich crowd at the private school she's enrolled at, where apparently if you aren't somebody from New Orleans, you're nobody. Anton Grey, part of this elite clique, is an extremely attractive student of the boys' school. He, however, appears to want to talk to Rebecca. Or does he? He never seems quite upfront.
Finally, there's the issue of the ghost.
Yep. Across the street from Rebecca's new (hopefully very temporary) home, is a large, old-fashioned cemetery. As she's not fantastic at keeping her curiosity at bay, she checks the place out late at night - and finds a sweet girl about her own age named Lisette. Only she's dead. And may know something about why there's a rumored curse on one of the area's oldest families.
But she may also be Rebecca's only friend in this place.
Worse, though, is how there seems to be more secrets hiding in the shadows than Rebecca can figure out. Everybody may have a hidden agenda - one that may include Rebecca, with or without her permission...
First off - don't ya love the cover? I love the eerie, ethereal aura the cover gives off! Definitely matches the contents of this mesmerizing novel!
Ruined begins with an interesting, historical, ghostly opening of events in New Orleans in 1853 and then quickly switches to modern-day Rebecca and her predicament. Right when she gets to her destination there is a real essence of environment - the author paints a portrait of New Orleans in a naturalistic, hypnotic way.
Mysteries, questions, and suspicions begins popping up around Rebecca immediately, like moles in a Whack-a-Mole. Morris allows the atmosphere to build up the tension and Rebecca's character, letting the reader become encompassed by the smells and sights of the area.
Rebecca is an independent, freethinking heroine that helps make it easy to stick with Ruined, even when parts of the conversation with Lisette early on feel stale, and some of the logic when it comes to the details about ghosts comes across as murky. But later on these small criticisms were overshadowed by a truly enjoyable, suspenseful novel - because as Lisette brings Rebecca deeper into the world of ghosts it becomes a quite enigmatic one.
I still felt that some of the tension in Ruined felt false, forced maybe... Yet there was an undeniably alluring quality that kept me constantly interested and turning pages quickly. You see, some of the story was predictable for me, but Paula Morris managed to still make it somehow fascinating with the way she skillfully wrote it.
Especially when Ruined came to the halfway point - the magnetic pull that had already been there increased tenfold. There is a kind of fun to unraveling all the tangled webs of secrets, lies, and mysteries surrounding Rebecca, and how she may somehow be involved. The creepy factor is definitely there too, unless ghosts, murder, revenge, and strange, distorted, blank-looking Mardi Gras masks don't make you blink your eyes! And as it thundered to its very satisfying conclusion, Ruined became surprisingly nerve-wracking.
So, by no means is Ruined a perfect novel in my estimation - a bit of a lack of character development, and as I mentioned before some predictability in plots - but Ruined is one of those books that creates an experience. An experience you should check out, I think. ;)