Narrator: Johanna Parker
Series: The Mediator #1
Published by MacMillan UK
Published on 21 August 2009
Genres: 20th Century, Paranormal, United States, Young Adult
Source: my local library
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Starring Susannah Simon – the sassiest ghost-hunter ever!
Being a mediator doesn't exactly make Susannah Simon your typical sixteen-year-old. Her job is to ease the path for the unhappy dead to their final resting place. Not all ghouls want to be guided, but Suze is inclined to kick some serious ghost butt if she has to. Now she's moved to California with her new stepfamily and is starting out at a brand-new school. From her first day, her mediator skills are tested to the max when Suze finds herself the target of the murderous spirit of ex-class beauty, Heather. At least she's sharing her new bedroom with Jesse, who just happens to be the hottest ghost in history. Suze is totally warm for his form and is determined to win the heart of the sexiest spirit in town. But can this girl get her ghost?
This has been published a bunch of times since it first debuted in 2000 under the pen name Jenny Carroll, but the author is actually MEG CABOT from The Princess Diaries fame.
Because it was originally published so long ago, back before what I consider to be YA’s explosion years (2005-ish), when it became incredibly popular thanks to film adaptations, better covers, dedicated YA sections in bookshops etc, I wasn’t sure what I was getting in to.
I was delighted to find that not only was the main character a legitimately tough badass I totally loved, the plot was incredibly solid, the secondary characters were beautifully defined, motivated, and well-rounded, but the worldbuilding was top-notch too! And I don’t mean the paranormal aspect, which admittedly was a little light on, since Suze doesn’t actually know anyone else who can do what she can do at the start of the novel: I mean the world building from shifting Suze, a native tough-as-nails New Yorker with the attitude and clothing to boot, over to sunny, beachy, northern California.
I confess, as an Australian, I tend to think of Americans more in terms of North/South rather than East-West. Actually, it was Legally Blonde that first made me realise there might be some radical differences between West Coasters and East Coasters, but the worldbuilding in this… I mean Suze was obsessed with the ocean, and the light was different so she liked watching sunsets, and someone told her she talked really fast because she’s a New Yorker… I mean this is something that I probably know from consumption of American media over my lifetime, but I’ve never seen it so clearly portrayed, and not in a YA novel. I was seriously impressed.
I thought this was a really solid introduction to what sounds like an incredible series: the premise is that Suze isn’t a medium, but a mediator: her duty, as someone who can see, talk to, and physically interact with the dead, is to help them move on to whatever comes after death. She wasn’t afraid to throw a punch, but also knew when to bail. She’s been doing it for years, so she’s not new at it when we meet her: however, every challenge is different. Cue the cute ghost living in her bedroom: he’s not harming anyone, so he’s not Suze’s priority in this first book. Her priority instead is the Heathers wannabe, aptly named Heather (nice little tribute there!), who’s hell-bent on murdering the guy who scorned her.
Suze also inherited 3 step-brothers, the eldest and youngest whom I totally adore. Dopey, the middle brother, I could do without, because he’s homophobic: he does get grounded for saying terrible things, so at least Suze’s new stepdad has her back. She also seems to have a really lovely relationship with her mother: they get along, they lean on each other, but it’s not a co-dependent thing, or like Suze’s mother put her new marriage before Suze: everyone tries really hard to make Suze feel welcome, and she gladly slots right in. It’s adorable and I love it.
I listened to the audiobook and the narrator was pretty decent. I could tell who was speaking from her subtle voice changes, and she really got Suz’s attitude and fast talking down.
Apart from the fact that no one had a mobile phone or social media, this book could have slot right in with today’s better paranormal YAs, and it still holds up as a historical set in the late 90s or early 2000s. It had a super strong plot, excellent worldbuilding, the story didn’t just revolve around 2 love interests and their abusive relationship, and our girl a great family to support her.
I enjoyed this series so much I’m going to actively hunt down all of the books in it.