When Sunshine is forced to leave sunny Austin, TX for dreary Ridgemont, WA she does it with dignity; her adoptive mother, Kat, has just been given her dream job at Ridgemont Hospital. The two pack up their animals and belonging to head out to a new adventure in a rental house from Craigslist. Sunshine leaves behind her best friend Ashley, her routines and her security, only to quickly discover that her new home is haunted and no one can help her. Her mother begins to act strangely and somehow forget an incident where the bathroom is destroyed by a spectre, only to be repaired the very next day as if nothing has happened. Sunshine finds an unlikely ally in her Visual Arts class when a teenage boy named Nolan sits across from her and discusses his grandfather and the weird details of his life. The two embark on an adventure to help clear the house of ghosts, rescue Sunshine’s adoptive mother from a fate worse than death, and help explain why Sunshine is so different from other teens at Ridgemont High.
For any adult, Ridgemont High is going to bring back horrible memories of a film from the 1980’s involving Sean Penn. Thankfully, Young Adult readers will likely miss this fact and keep on reading. Warm places to Washington state is definitely something we’ve seen before. I will say as an adult I was just thankful it wasn’t vampires that turned out to be the big bad. Author Paige McKenzie writes for a teenage audience and nails it. She is able to capture the feelings so many teens have when moving, losing a friend, and feeling those first moments of separation when both a teen and their parents begin to fight for dominance. This is beautifully done under the guise of the paranormal. Like many books in this genre, Sunshine becomes a chosen one, albeit one who is incredibly hard on herself almost to a fault. I found myself reliving the days of my teen years where I never fit in and just didn’t know why.
McKenzie captures the creepy feeling of a haunting and uses many of the familiar signs of hauntings (cold spaces, unearthly noises) but takes it to a whole other level by including rather creative demonic forces. While you by no means will need to read this book with the lights on, there are those uncomfortable moments throughout the book where you really want to have an Old Priest and a Young Priest on Speed dial.
I enjoyed The Haunting of Sunshine Girl greatly. Paige McKenzie’s book may have a similar premise to much of what is already in the YA world, but her unique brand of humor makes this book shine as brightly as the main character’s name.
The Haunting of Sunshine Girl is available March 24, 2015 from Weinstein Books.