Past Midnight by Mara Purnhagen

Past Midnight Cover
Light, ghost-story mystery for young teens

Past Midnight (Past Midnight #1) by Mara Purnhagen
Reading Level:
Young Adult
Release Date: September 1, 2010
Publisher: Harlequin
Pages: 224
Source: Amazon Vine
Reviewed By: Kate McMurry

Charlotte Silver and her older sister Annalise have spent their entire childhood traveling around with their parents who are ghost hunters. But not the kind who actually believe in ghosts. Rather, they are professors who have dedicated their careers to proving that what various people claim are visitations from ghosts are simply predictable forms of electrical energy which Charlotte’s parents track and record with sophisticated equipment. Unfortunately, in the midst of her parents’ paranormal quest, Charlotte suddenly finds herself haunted by what appear to be actual ghosts, and everyone in the family is totally freaked out–but most especially Charlotte. Weird dreams, telekinesis and messages from the great beyond have Charlotte afraid to live in her own house and her parents scrambling to explain, and end, the weird paranormal activities surrounding their daughter.

There are two different plots in this novel. The main plot involves solving the mystery of the ghosts haunting Charlotte–what do they want, and how can she get rid of them? The secondary plot consists of Charlotte trying to fit in at a new school where her parents–at the insistence of her college-sophomore sister–have promised to allow Charlotte to finish out her senior year. In Charlotte’s painful past experience, as soon as kids at her school find out who her parents are, her social life is ruined, so this time around she’s determined to keep her parents’ identities secret so she can have a chance to actually make and keep friends. Inevitably, of course, the secret gets out and she has to deal with the fallout.

I found it interesting and unusual to read a YA novel in which the parents play as large a part as they do in this book. Usually parents are either totally absent or cast to the irrelevant sidelines in modern teen fiction. The book also offers a unique take on ghosts by having them be something all the characters strongly don’t want to believe in and keep trying to ignore or disprove.

This book can be safely read by young teens and might possibly not be exciting enough for older teens. Because of the muted way the author presents the ghosts, even when Charlotte gets scared herself, the ghosts aren’t particularly frightening to read about. There is no romance, no swearing, no drugs or alcohol, and only very mild rebellion on Charlotte’s part–and an ironic kind of rebellion at that. It is the parents who are the true rebels, living an unconventional lifestyle, and in rebelling against them, Charlotte is merely trying to live a settled and normal life.

Overall, this is a well-written novel, without any huge, gut-wrenching conflict. Charlotte is a pleasant character, and this is a fast, easy, pleasant read.

Heroine: 4

Subcharacters: 4

Fantasy World-Building: 4

Writing: 4

Paranormal Drama Plot: 4

Overall: 4

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