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Project 17 by Laurie Faria Stolarz

I'm always on the lookout for good young adult fiction because some YA fic is just as good or better than some adult fiction I read.  I've reviewed quite a few YA titles in the past.  Project 17 by Laurie Faria Stolarz is the latest young adult fiction title that I've read and it is a quick read with short chapters (my favorite) of rotating narrators.  We see the story unfold from multiple viewpoints, and while this can be quite effective in some novels, it seems to hinder the story development in this one.  This is a spooky, but not scary, eerie read.  The teenage voices of the narrators are differentiated between the various teens, but Stolarz fails to create distinctive, unique voices and when the chapters are right next to each other, it's easy to tell that it's the same person writing all the voices.  The rotating narrators detract also from the atmosphere of what could easily be a wickedly terrifying night in a damaged and condemned state asylum that clearly retains some of what has transpired within its walls in years past.

Derik, Greta, Liza, Tony, Mimi and Chet are high school seniors who float in different social circles.  Derik assembles this mismatched bunch to break in to the long abandoned Danvers State Hospital outside Boston on the eve of its scheduled demolition.  The former mental institution, long rumored to be haunted, is steeped in local  lore, dark secrets and the heavy atmosphere of a building that has witnessed too many years of human cruelties, tragedies and illnesses.  Derik's mission is to tape the night the group spends there, edit the film, and submit it to a reality TV channel's contest.  As the teens trek onto the hospital grounds its clear Danvers is already weaving its dark effects and thoroughly spooking the teens before they even enter the building complex.

Each teen is in Danvers that night for their own personal reasons, but they each have escape in mind.  Whether it's escaping a volatile, abusive home life for a night, the chance to escape the family business upon graduation or an effort to escape a prestigious ivy league college's wait list, each teen in that group has a lot riding on seeing this extracurricular project through to completion.  The question is, is it worth the price that Danvers will surely call due before the night is through?

Anyone who enjoys a spooky, subtle ghost story will enjoy this book.

--Reviewed by Ms. Angie


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