The Reckless Afterlife of Harriet Stoker, by Lauren James, is a YA paranormal horror which is set in the United Kingdom, in an abandoned building called Mulcture Hall. The main character, Harriet Stoker, is a university student studying Photography and has come to the building to take pictures as part of a project for her studies.
However, the building is structurally unsound and when Harriet loses her footing, she falls to her death which is when the rest of the story unfolds. Mulcture Hall turns out to house a number of ghosts who have all lost their lives within the building and have gone on to form their own friendships and communities. One such group consists of Rima, Felix, Kasper and Leah, who attempt to befriend Harriet on her journey into the afterlife.
But as the story progresses, it becomes clear that Harriet has only one goal in mind. Her grandmother is her only living relative – both her parents died when she was young. She relies heavily on Harriet to do things for her, and this leaves Harriet in a state of panic when she realizes that there is no way of letting her grandmother know what has happened. When she finds out that the ghosts are able to possess different powers, this becomes a focal point for her and rather than making friends, she decides to use them to obtain powers that she believes will help her to escape.
The story takes a dark turn, with Harriet encountering ghosts who have been banished from the general community and falling foul of the methods they employ to regain access. This causes her to lose her friendship group and take actions that turn her into a very dangerous member of the ghost community. When she realizes the consequences of her actions, this leads her to make an even darker discovery about her family’s past.
Having enjoyed previous books from Lauren James, I was excited to read this one and it did not disappoint. Whilst it was a step outside the usual science fiction that she is known for, the change was refreshing and I quickly became immersed in the story as it progressed. I found myself relating to Harriet’s character in many ways and in the scenes which made her intensely unlikeable, I was able to sympathize with her and ask myself if I would have acted much differently had I been in her place.
The story does go through some shifts in POV and I do wonder if the story would have been different had it been told entirely from Harriet’s perspective. However, the shifts were natural and fluent without detracting from the story itself. It makes the story multi-layered and allows the reader to see the situation from the perspective of each character.
As I was writing the review for this, I found it hard not to give too much away. I really look forward to seeing what else the author has to offer, whether it be science fiction, horror or something completely different.
I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review, but went on to buy my own, signed copy. It is available on Amazon.