A unique and humorous YA ghost story.

Emma After by Anthony O’Connor is a unique and imaginative YA ghost story about teenager Emma Crothers. Emma lives in the tiny rural town of Herbertson, New South Wales, and after a series of unexpected and difficult events change her life forever, Emma suddenly dies in a tragic accident. She then reappears in a version of Herbertson that is very different from the one she knows, and finds her way to the old Fountaindale Grand Manor, a derelict hotel on the hill that has been abandoned (and considered haunted) for many years. She soon learns that the Fountaindale is in fact haunted, and is a haven that keeps the dead safe from the Hollows – nightmarish spirits that hunt and consume ghosts. Just as she’s adjusting to her new (after)life at the Fountaindale, a living family, the Hopes, move into the building, threatening the home and haven of the many ghosts who live there.

Emma is tasked with haunting Andrew, the Hope’s twenty-year-old son, in the ghosts’ effort to save the hotel. But as she gets to know him and the things he’s been through, why his family is moving into the manor in the first place, she begins to wonder if haunting them into leaving is really the right thing to do…

Emma After is a heady mixture of genres, including horror, coming of age, drama, and occasional romance, with big doses of humour thrown in as Emma learns to cope with the strange and often very difficult things that happen to her. O’Connor has had a lot of fun with the story, including long and very funny sequences of the Fountaindale’s ghostly staff finding new and creative ways to haunt the family of ‘breathers’ they are trying to expel. This is then balanced against some very real depictions of mental health issues, which are explored creatively and with nuance as Emma learns more about Andrew and his family.

This book was not exactly what I was expecting, but it was a very unique and interesting read, taking several surreal and inventive plot turns that readers definitely will not see coming. I would recommend it to older YA readers, lovers of horror and ghost stories with a humorous flavour, and anyone interested in creative concepts about the afterlife.

This review was first published on ArtsHub.

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