The Death of Torberta Turchin by Shannon Mawhiney

Rating 8.0/10
A bitter-sweet ghost story.

Shannon Mawhiney, The Death of Torberta Turchin. Charleston: USA, 2011. pp. 307. ISBN 1460937902, ISBN-13 978-1460937907.

Torberta is a 14 year-old orphan who lost her parents in a car accident and since then she acquired a special skill: she can hear and talk to dead people, but she cannot see them. Her relatives find her strange and spooky, and believe that she is mentally unstable, so they enrol her at St Christopher’s Academy, a boarding school for kids and teenagers with mental problems and learning difficulties, and they try to keep their contact with her to a minimum. Torberta prefers staying at school anyway, as she has a few friends there and she feels safe. She can also communicate with the ghost of a young man named Charlie, who has become kind of her guardian angel. The problem is that other ghosts try to communicate with her as well, most of the time for their own selfish reasons, making Torby’s life miserable.

On her website, the author explains that after many failed attempts to find an agent, she decided to self-publish the book, initially on Amazon’s Kindle and later on paper. This review regards the printed version of the book and I don’t believe that because it is a self-published book it is deprived in literary quality. The book aims primarily at young adults, but I found it suitable for older teenagers and older adults as well.

It is essentially a well-written, bitter-sweet story about what could be an average teenager who feels insecure, lonely and abandoned. Torby feels rejected by her relatives, but even more so by her own dead parents, as she tries to understand whether they have “moved on” after their deaths, and why they never tried to communicate with her since she has that special gift. Sometimes, she also doubts her own sanity.

The language and dialogues flow very well, and the story is well-written. The description of the boarding school brings to the reader’s mind memories of their own school years with the favourite and boring teachers, the nice kids and the bullies. It feels like a combination of the sixth sense and Harry Potter.

However, it is unfortunate that the author reveals Torby’s fate on the back cover summary. There is absolutely no need for that direct revelation – the title could be considered ambiguous or just an impressions’ game - as it makes the story more predictable. In addition, until around page 160, the story is mostly a description of Torby’s everyday life at the Academy and at her relatives’ house. It’s only after chapter 14 (out of 24) that new characters and some mystery and action are introduced. If there were some hints that things went wrong here and there in the earlier chapters, the story would be more balanced and more enjoyable.

The font size is adequate for easy reading, with lots of space between paragraphs and dialogues. However, if the text alignment was justified and there was indentation at the beginning of each new paragraph or dialogue line, the book would look more professional. In addition, to separate the different sections within chapters, three stars (***) instead of a full line of them would be enough.

The author gives food for though regarding metaphysics, the paranormal and life after death. It is a pleasant read and I generally recommend it, but maybe not so suitable for the very emotional and fragile teenagers with issues around death and suicide.

Many thanks to the author for providing my review copy.

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from Nixa Mo

10-stars

I absolutely loved the book, and couldn't put it down. As I read, I could picture myself right there with her, as the descriptions of the people and the surroundings was so well done. (I am bias, though, I'm her Dad, and we're very proud of her! I do, however, mean what I say about the book.)

9/10 from 2 reviews

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