Title: Dead, Actually
Author: Kaz Delaney
Genre: YA Paranormal Mystery
Opening lines: ‘…My life is dissected neatly into two, like a set of before-and-after shots…’
Blurb: Willow’s having a bad week. A dead body, a funeral and now she’s being haunted by the star of it all, the dead queen of Ruth Throsby High herself, JoJo Grayson. Being dead hasn’t made JoJo any nicer. She’s still venomous and vacuous and, unfortunately, determined to stick around unless Willow finds out what happened. But the mysteries keep multiplying. There’s a missing phone. An anonymous blackmailer. Dirty secrets that won’t stay buried. And the blame is being cleverly pointed right at Willow.
My thoughts: I recently read the second book in the ‘Dead’ series, Almost Dead, and loved it, so was chuffed to be offered the first book to read and review. I had a fair idea that I was going to love DEAD, ACTUALLY not just because I enjoyed the second book, but because when it was released in 2012 it won Favourite Paranormal Romance 2012 with the Australian Romance Readers Association, Best Young Adult novel 2012 with the Aurelias Award and was also long listed for a Davitt Award in the Best Children’s YA 2012 category. Awards aren’t lightly handed out. I knew what to expect as far as writing style went – it is a book about teens, written for teen so it was going to be full of typical teen talk and attitudes. Kaz Delaney nailed it – I could almost imagine I was on the Gold Coast in a coffee shop with a gaggle of teen girls twittering away behind me.
Willow comes from a moneyed background, but life hasn’t been easy, her parents were drug addicts so she virtually brought herself up, while caring for them. Her parents have now stopped with the drugs but become over the top religious zealots instead. Willow is very sensible though and is into study, caring and social justice. She is not one to care about running with the pack; she is funny, independent and has a big time crush on her best friend Macey’s brother. As DEAD, ACTUALLY opens Willow’s parents have just told her they are off to Africa to start a church and she herself was the one who last spoke to JoJo Grayson before finding her body in a car accident. JoJo Grayson is the Queen Bee of the schools in-crowd, the “it” girl, the one who everyone wanted to be with and emulate. Willow is not part of this crowd, and has no desire too, but goes along to the funeral out of respect for a school mate. She is a tad surprised to see JoJo in her bedroom when she gets back from the funeral service.
"…My body froze.
My brain shut down.
I clutched at the doorframe.
But still she stared at me.
Her…A dead person. In my room.
Let me clarify: not a body, a dead person.
An already-buried, dead person…"
JoJo takes a little convincing that she has been killed, but soon insists on Willow finding out who killed her, because she just feels she’s been murdered. She also wants her mobile phone located and where is her other shoe? A ghost cannot go around with only one shoe can she? So reluctantly Willow starts to investigate, and Macey and her brother Seth help. It turns out that JoJo wasn’t as well loved as it would appear, everyone is hiding something, everyone has a motive and someone is trying to frame Willow. Can she solve the mystery, get rid of the ghost and find a boyfriend? And then there is that little matter with her parents…
Author Kaz Delaney has a real talent for portraying teenage dramatics, and manages to perfectly capture ‘teenspeak’ bitchiness and backstabbing. Willow and Macey have some wonderfully snarky one-liners that had me laughing out loud on more than one occasion. The characters as a whole are all well drawn and represent well who they are supposed to be. Even the despicable JoJo gives you understanding as to why she is like she is, you probably still won’t like her but she has her moments. DEAD, ACTUALLY is a delightful blend of mystery, comedy, romance and the supernatural all wrapped up in one entertaining story, great for escaping the real world with for a while. I thoroughly recommend this series and am led to believe that there is 3rd one in the pipeline.
Rating: A – Excellent Stuff – a real page turner and hard to put down. I carved out extra reading time just so I could finish it. This book got carted into the bathroom with me, read over meals, read at work, and/or kept me up late at night. If this author has more work, I will certainly read it.
For more about the author – Click Here
With thanks to Allen & Unwin and the author for this copy to read and review. Allen & Unwin recommended retail price is $17.99
Dead, Actually by Kaz Delaney is book # 14 for AWW2014