Rating: 5 out of 5
Sonora Taylor’s Seeing Things is every bit as good as her Without Condition [review], and I loved that book. She has a knack for taking well-used story elements like serial killers or seeing ghosts and turning them into something more.
Abby is thirteen years old and wants to visit her Uncle Keith and Aunt Sandra over her summer vacation. Keith plans to spend the summer renovating the old family homestead, and would be happy to have her help. Of course, things aren’t going entirely well these days. Sandra left Keith. Keith just lost his job as an English teacher. And as for Abby? Well, she just started seeing dead people. Like the girl in the locker at school, crushed into that small space, her eyes gouged out, blood running into the hallway. None of the ghosts she sees, however, have any interest in talking to her. Quite the opposite, in fact. One ghost even flips her the bird before running away. When she finally arrives to visit Keith, one of the first things she sees is the streams of blood running out and down from the house.
The book perfectly depicts the awkwardness of puberty and entering one’s teen years, and how this affects your relationships, especially with family members. Abby is none too happy when her parents virulently reject what she says she saw, but she learns quickly to not tell them anything. Her parents also argue about whether they should really let her go visit Keith with all that’s going on in his life. They opine that he shouldn’t be saddled with “babysitting” her, and her father keeps dismissing Keith as a lazy good-for-nothing. Abby’s understandably hurt, since she thought Uncle Keith liked her visits and didn’t see them as babysitting. When she visits him, there’s so much awkwardness around his lost job and all of the other subjects that seem to come up. It all strikes so true. It makes a great context for the abilities Abby has suddenly developed and has to come to terms with.
Abby of course starts noticing a handful of ghosts around this small town, and has some interesting interactions with both the living and the dead. Keith has found a part-time job at a bookstore, and Abby is frustrated it’ll eat into her time with him during her visit. This is a nice opportunity for us to meet a couple of new characters, and for Abby’s ability to come into play a bit.
The pacing is great. Things start a bit gradually, and this is never a high-octane read, but it’s still riveting. It’s a relatively short read, and like Without Condition, it goes to some unexpected places.