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Ruined by Paula Morris

Ruined by Paula Morris wants to be a ghost story, and it is, but it's a little lite on the ghost and haunting elements.

Rebecca's a New Yorker, but when her father must go to China for half a year to work, Rebecca is reluctantly shipped off to post-Katrina New Orleans to live with her father's old friend, "aunt" Claudia and her daughter, Aurelia. They are her father's only family, whom she barely knows. At her new, exclusive, all girls school, Rebecca quickly runs afoul of the in crowd girls who belong to the rich, influential, "old line" New Orleans families and who rule the school. Shunned by these girls and the rest of the school's students who follow their lead lest they too become social pariahs, Rebecca feels isolated, outcast, and bewildered by the homogeneous, closed society that closes ranks against outsiders.

Late one night in the Lafayette cemetery across the street from her aunt's house, Rebecca meets Lisette, a light skinned, black Creole girl who has haunted the cemetery and various other places in the neighborhood since her murder during the city's yellow fever epidemic of 1853. She's befriended by this strange ghost who tells the story of both her death and the subsequent curse brought down on the family and the house of her murderer that haunts the family to this day. Rebecca is also befriended by Anton, a boy who belongs to an old line family and a member of the same upper class, in crowd that shuns her at school. However, warnings from hostile in crowd members and her own aunt, who tell her that she doesn't really know Anton and that she needs to steer clear of the Greys, Bowmans and Suttons in particular because they belong to a different world combine with Anton's sporadic, sparse contact and bewildering behavior to make Rebecca suspicious of his motives for befriending her. It's clear there's more to aunt Claudia's warning, more to the history between the families, and more to her father's odd behavior than is being shared with Rebecca.

The setting of New Orleans and its flavor and unique, colorful atmosphere add to the story, but the author's heavy handed references to hurricane Katrina and its damage and aftermath detract from the story. In the end, the resolution and reveal of all the big secrets of the story are obvious, while the climax of the action in the cemetery comes off as a bit unbelievable even in a story that has a ghost for a supporting character.

Die hard, young adult ghost story fans will enjoy this book.

--Reviewed by Ms. Angie


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