„The Haunting of Sunshine Girl“ by Paige McKenzie
It’s difficult to talk about „The Haunting of Sunshine Girl“ and not get too excited or carried away. I know, because this is my 3rd rewrite of this review. The other two were really just me repeating „this book is so awesome“ over and over again.
„Shortly after her sixteenth birthday, Sunshine Griffith and her mother Kat move from sunny Austin, Texas, to the rain-drenched town of Ridgemont, Washington. Though Sunshine is adopted, she and her mother have always been close, sharing a special bond filled with laughter and inside jokes. But from the moment they arrive, Sunshine feels her world darken with an eeriness she cannot place. And even if Kat doesn’t recognize it, Sunshine knows that something about their new house is just … creepy.
In the days that follow, things only get stranger. Sunshine is followed around the house by an icy breeze, phantom wind slams her bedroom door shut, and eventually, the laughter Sunshine hears on her first night evolves into sobs. She can hardly believe it, but as the spirits haunting her house become more frighten¬ing—and it becomes clear that Kat is in danger—Sunshine must accept what she is, pass the test before her, and save her mother from a fate worse than death.“
„The Haunting of Sunshine Girl“ is not just the story of an adorkable girl and her haunted house, as the mysterious blurb on some sites (*goodreads*) wants you to believe.
Sunshine is a unique character in a book like this, definitely one of my new top favourites (the character and the book). Despite being „the chosen one“, she is not overly brave, not ridiculously confident, does not just take the sword and fights the dragon (metaphorically speaking, this book does not actually contain dragons!). She is a relatable, you-and-me type of character, who is thrown into unknown territory and is scared (understandably so).
I love that the haunting isn’t just your usual ghost/demon/exorcism kind of thing. A lot of new paranormal elements are introduced bit by bit (I really want to talk about this more, but it might spoil you). They are definitely a major reason why you will keep turning the pages, I just wanted to know more about it all. Btw. you should already try practicing to say „luiseach“, it took me a few pages to figure it out, and I’m already looking forward to what the German translation will make of it. 😉
But I was not just interested, I was really creeped out by „The Haunting of Sunshine Girl“. Most of the things that I believed only worked in horror movies (psychological horror, things that go bump in the night, „showing“ demonic possession) were so well done in this book. It’s almost like I have been looking for this forever: a YA horror book that actually „works“, without (too much) blood, without the plot being too ridiculous, or flat characters, or, or, or…
I had so many „bad“ experiences with YA horror, that I just can’t not love Sunshine Girl for all that it is doing right. The great characters (all of them, really), Paige’s voice, the plot and the new-ish lore (luiseaches and stuff), no forced love story, and ghosts who are treated like people too. People with backstories, motivation et all… (I love, love, love the board game thing…)
As soon as my physical copy arrives, I am going to reread this, and wait impatiently for the 2nd book in the series. If you, like me, are looking for a creepy YA read, then go for Sunshine Girl! It will not disappoint, I can’t recommend it enough!
p.s.: Before this book, I didn’t know „The Haunting Of Sunshine Girl“ was a YouTube thing. I would have picked the book up without that tag line, and I enjoyed it a lot without knowing anything about the series. But I did spend the last weekend trying to catch up on YouTube, just to see how similar the book and the vlogs are. I came to a few conclusions:
a) You do not need to know the YouTube series to read the book. In fact, I think it works a lot better if you watch the vlogs after reading it.
b) However: some of the vlogs would fit perfectly into the book! They might even enhance the experience of story. I read an eARC so I don’t know what the finished version of the book will look like, but I hope the publisher thought about this too. It would be perfect to have certain videos embedded in an „enhanced eBook“ version of the book, or put QR-Codes in the physical book/ebook. If you are going to emphasize the „YouTube phenomenon“ of Sunshine Girl, then do it properly and use the videos… please!
c) In case anyone was wondering: you will not know the plot of the book even if you have watched the YouTube series from the start. I’m only up to Season 4 (or 5, YouTube does not make it easy to keep track of that) but so far it is really different. Sure, the characters are there, and bits and pieces are the same, but the book is going into a whole other direction (an awesome direction though!
Header Image by dragonballbeauty