Thursday 17 May 2012

YA REVIEW - 'Preloved', Shirley Marr (Black Dog Books, 2012)

Amy has enough to deal with for one lifetime. A superstitious Chinese mother. A best friend whose mood changes as dramatically as her hair colour. A reputation for being strange. The last thing she needs is to be haunted by someone only she can see. Logan is a ghost from the Eighties. He could be dangerous. He's certainly annoying. He might also be Amy's dream boy. (Synopsis from Goodreads)

I don't usually bother with the paranormal YA reads most of the time as I'm more of a lover of the contemporary YA stuff and I have more than enough of that at the moment to keep me busy for the next, oh, several decades, I reckon. BUT, when I read a few lovely bits about this one over at Wear The Old Cost, Vegan YA Nerds and The Readventurer, my interest was well and truly caught in it's ghostly looking literary net.

PrelovedA contemporary/paranormal/possibly slightly historical (?) YA. And an Aussie one to boot. Exciting times, indeed.

I say, 'historical', because there is a very strong 1980s theme (and this was 25 years ago, or thereabouts) (ok, that thought just made me feel ANCIENT, so lets just pretend the 1980s was only like 10 years ago, yeah?) - Amy's dead companion, Logan is from the Eighties. All the teenagers here, particularly Amy, seem to be obsessed with that decade. Amy's mum runs a vintage store which stocks many an Eighties garm. Cheesy slang is spouted on nearly every page. So if you're not that fussed about the Eighties, well, you might get a bit miffed after a few chapters.

This theme is a bit of a blessing and a curse for the book. Yes, if offers a strong hook for much of the action and the retro factor taps in to all the current love for electro and batwing jumpers. I was a little kid back then, a huge Kylie and Jason fan, and I saw The Princess Bride when it was in the cinema the first time around, so this brought a hint of nostalgia for me, personally. But, are teenagers today really THAT much into 1980s culture, to the extent that they have an 80s themed day and prom within the space of a week? That boys would have knowledge on the Jason Donovan mullet-styling circa 1988? I really don't know. Maybe they are. I'm genuinely interested, so someone this age, please tell me whether you know all the words off by heart to Too Many Broken Hearts. I could buy the fact that Amy loved the decade, but all of them? Mmmm.

Let's say something positive now - I adored Amy. She was a brilliant main character - self-depricating without being annoying, she had very realistic thoughts and fears that I think will ring true for many an 16 year old girl. Always feeling consigned to the best friend shadow role, with lots of angry, bad burny feelings, but not really sure quite what to do about them, using humour as a defence mechanism. All brilliant. And this was made all the better for the exchanges with her mum. A lovely balance of humour, sarcasm and genuine affection. My favourite Mum line - 

"Oooh, old age." Mum grimaced. "No way can I do a go-go dancer squat these days."

May be it was the fact these two were so well developed that the rest of the characters felt half-baked and confusing. Logan, for example. He spouts some cringy retro sayings and annoys her a bit, and all of a sudden she's in love with him and I wasn't quite sure how that happened. And therefore not particularly convinced by it. Also, Rebecca? What, just... what? That's it. Was she a bitch and were we supposed to forgive her? Was she popular or not? Would EVERY boy really fancy her if she was such a cow? Or was  she a cow? I'm really not sure. Just such a bloody confusing character that did not ring true in the slightest.

I really liked the plot twist in the end - very intriguing (if a bit rushed) and I was really happy that Amy and her mum's beliefs were not mocked - their attempts to overcome Amy's haunting were very moving. But for a book that contains ghosts and vintage shops, it was oddly lacking it atmosphere. I would imagine that sort of setting would be ripe for some descriptive, atmospheric writing, but a lot of it felt very flat.

So, mixed feelings about this one. Great mother and daughter relationship. Brilliant main character, but lacking a certain something. BUT, it does have a reference to Mr. Matey bubble bath, so I can forgive some of it's shortcomings.

Also, I have to say, a lot of this book reminded of something in particular from my childhood with very similar elements - 

GHOSTS. JOKES. AUSTRALIAN. 1980s. Yes, it can only mean one thing (I'm sorry if you can't get this out of your head for several weeks after).....

Oh, and I love a great YA book cover. And this one has to be one of my favourites. It is so lovely I just want to eat it right up.

This book was sent to me for review by Viewpoint Magazine.


  1. Anna. WHAT IS THAT VIDEO?!?! And a dragon too?! God love the 80s.

    I have mixed feelings about this one too, which you articulated very well, Miss Matey. ;)

    Here's an 80s theme song I hope gets stuck in your head, haha:


    1. Thanks for that one Maggie - we never got that in 1980s Uk, but I did used to have a little crush on Chachi :/
      Round the Twist was classic late 80s/early90s Aussie kids TV. Family live in haunted lighthouse, much shenanigans ensues etc etc.
      God love the 80s indeed :)

  2. I am not clicking on the video and I am trying to pretend I didn't see it so I don't have a repeat of what happened last time it was mentioned!

    I really enjoyed your review, Anna. The way Logan spoke annoyed me as well, I just couldn't picture an Aussie teen talking like that, even one from the 80s but I don't remember because I was only a bub back then.

    Amy and her mum really did make this book, I love them both!

    1. I just wish all of the dialogue was as great as and convincing as the Amy/Mum stuff. And Logan needed a bit more to him than just lame one-liners! Cheesy puns are no way near swoon-some enough!