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7 Souls    by Barnabas Miller & Jordan Orlando order for
7 Souls
by Barnabas Miller
Order:  USA  Can
Delacorte, 2010 (2010)

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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

A strong vein of horror runs through 7 Souls, written by Barnabas Miller and Jordan Orlando. Given that it deals with the death and afterlife of a young woman, Mary Shayne, I at first expected a YA Lovely Bones. But Miller & Orlando tell a very different kind of story.

Mary is murdered on her seventeenth birthday, and readers see events leading up to her death, first through her own eyes and then through those of her best friends Amy and Joon; her boyfriend Trick; her 'nerd lifeline' Scott; her sister Ellen; and Ellen's friend Dylan. Mary, a ghostly investigator of her own killing, inhabits their bodies for short periods, wiping out their own memories during the time she is in control. Those memory blanks later make sense of individual bizarre behaviors on Mary's fatal birthday.

Mary wakes up on that morning (after a pre-birthday dinner with her mother and sister the evening before) on display naked - and with a splitting headache - in the second-floor window of 'the biggest furniture and housewares store in SoHo.' She has no memory of how she got there. That very strange beginning sets the tone for the even weirder day that follows. It includes Trick's breaking up with her; a surprise party; a failed rescue attempt for a friend in big trouble; a suicide setup - and of course Mary's murder.

It seems that lovely Mary ('the senior class's very own superstar') has used others all her life, ever since the trauma of her father's death when she was seven, an event that left behind a dark legacy. Now, as Mary sees herself through others' eyes - and doesn't like what she sees - is she being given a second chance? How will she answer the question, 'Whom do you hate the most?' And what does the Curse of 7 Souls have to do with her life - and death?

Read 7 Souls to find out how all these questions are answered. Though I didn't find the extreme animosity that Mary aroused in others entirely credible, it's an unusual, engrossing and cleverly written tale with a satisfying ending.

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