Title: The Weight of Souls
Author: Bryony Pearce
Genre: YA Paranormal, Mystery
Publication Date: August 6, 2013 (Strange Chemistry)
Synopsis: 16 year old Taylor Oh is cursed: if she is touched by the ghost of a murder victim then they pass a mark beneath her skin. She has three weeks to find their murderer and pass the mark to them – letting justice take place and sending them into the Darkness. And if she doesn’t make it in time? The Darkness will come for her… She spends her life trying to avoid ghosts, make it through school where she’s bullied by popular Justin and his cronies, keep her one remaining friend, and persuade her father that this is real and that she’s not going crazy.
And then Justin is murdered and everything gets a whole lot worse. Justin doesn’t know who killed him, so there’s no obvious person for Taylor to go after. The clues she has lead her to the V Club, a vicious secret-society at her school where no one is allowed to leave… And where Justin was dared to do the stunt which led to his death. Can she find out who was responsible for his murder before the Darkness comes for her? Can she put aside her hatred for her former bully to truly help him? And what happens if she starts to fall for him?
3/5 stars – Fun and thorough, but it’s not without its issues
Well, this is difficult. For days, I’ve been bouncing back and forth on how I feel about The Weight of Souls. It’s been a while since a book left me so conflicted and unable to write a review without wanting to slam my head into a wall. There are some definite strong points to the novel that make it worth reading, but Taylor and some of her less-thought-out actions turn it into a mixed bag.
Taylor herself is well-developed and despite her rougher edges and how she alienates the people closest to her to keep them safe when she doesn’t need to (she gets better), it’s hard not to feel for her when people are being outright racist to our half-Chinese heroine time after time. All she can do is take it and wait for the people doing it (usually James and Tamsin, two of the most popular people in their popular-person group) to get what’s coming to them. And oh, do James, Tamsin, and co. get what’s coming to them. Thank goodness!
As smart (sort of) as she is, Taylor’s perfectly functional brain seems to shut down toward the end. That she lets a killer escape is acceptable due to the circumstances, though it feels like a bit of a plot contrivance meant to keep someone around for a while. Her hare-brained plan to sacrifice herself, as she would have realized had she thought about it, would have not helped her or the person she wanted to help. It would have merely screwed them both over. It’s sheer luck that keeps her sacrifice from succeeding.
Of all the places I expected this novel to go as Taylor works to avenge Justin and get the Mark off herself before the Darkness comes to take her in the killers’ place, secret society territory was the last place, but voila, figuring out what happened to Justin before he died takes Taylor into the heart of a good old-fashioned secret society with members in the police force, a university they’ll get into no matter their grades, and jobs they’ll be given by older members. It may be me, but having secret society shenanigans in my paranormal is a little odd.
Regardless, Pearce keeps the main plot front and center for the most part. Some developments come about slowly (one was due to a ghost who didn’t want to accept his death–yes, I’m looking at you, Justin) and that makes the book feel longer than it is, but it’s not hard to get swept up in Taylor’s current quest for ghost-demanded vengeance or her tales of past vendettas fulfilled, how she came to inherit her curse, and what it means for the rest of her life.
The romance Taylor has is where one of my greater problems happens. Let’s just say I don’t subscribe to the train of thought that a guy who like someone will bully their crush and let their friends be racist little pieces of crap to their crush for years. All romances that start off that way fail on me. As someone with plenty of bullies in my past, more than a few of which friends and family hypothesized had a crush on me (and as someone who bullied boys she had a crush on back in elementary school), I know anything that starts like that isn’t going to work. At least, not for me.
The ending has a strong hook for the sequel and the promise of more nefarious happenings (like what Anubis is up to with his army and the possibility of being freed from the tomb priests sealed him in), but I’ll need time to think about if I want to continue on because though Taylor is getting better as a person, if the same issues that plagued The Weight of Souls plague book two, it won’t be quite as much fun.