A Certain Slant Of Light (Turtleback School & Library Binding Edition)

A Certain Slant Of Light (Turtleback School & Library Binding Edition)

4.4 309
by Laura Whitcomb

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In the class of the high school English teacher she has been haunting, Helen feels them: for the first time in 130 years, human eyes are looking at her. They belong to a boy, a boy who has not seemed remarkable until now. And Helen -- terrified, but intrigued -- is drawn to him. The fact that he is in a body and she is not presents this unlikely couple with their… See more details below

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In the class of the high school English teacher she has been haunting, Helen feels them: for the first time in 130 years, human eyes are looking at her. They belong to a boy, a boy who has not seemed remarkable until now. And Helen -- terrified, but intrigued -- is drawn to him. The fact that he is in a body and she is not presents this unlikely couple with their first challenge. But as the lovers struggle to find a way to be together, they begin to discover the secrets of their former lives and of the young people they come to possess.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
By turns whispery, giddy and urgent, Molina's voice skillfully rides the emotional roller coaster of this gothic-style romance carried on by Victorian-era ghosts who come to inhabit nubile 21st-century teenage bodies. Helen, a passionate lover of literature who's been "light" since her death 130 years ago, has spiritually attached herself, invisible, to human hosts for decades. But when she is one day seen by a kindred spirit literally in James, a ghost now inhabiting a teen junkie's form, everything changes. Helen takes over the body of Jenny, the "empty" daughter of strict fundamentalist Christians. As humans, the two ghosts experience new sensations; they navigate contemporary social and romantic mores and also remember more about their own past lives among the living. The intriguing premise and eerie execution of this tale will arrest romance and ghost story fans alike. A few expletives and some graphic sexual encounters keep this firmly in the older listener category. Ages 14-up. (June) n Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
Helen has been dead for 130 years. One day, while she is haunting a high school English teacher, she realizes that someone in the room is able to see her—boy who the week before had seemed quite unremarkable. But once he saw Helen, questions were answered and understood. This book is about the love story that develops between the two of them, as they discover their former lives and more about the children whose bodies they have come to possess. This book is a combination of harlequin romance with paranormal activity. Although well written, this book is not appropriate for children as topics such as sex, drugs, smoking, drinking, and supernatural events are mixed together for the story line. The author expounds her thoughts on post-mortal existence, and brings them together in quite an intriguing story line. This novel is about the struggle to remember and love. 2005, Houghton Mifflin Company, Ages Adult.
—Nicole Peterson
"Someone was looking at me, a disturbing sensation if you're a ghost." Helen has been dead for over 100 years, and this is the first time that anyone living ever noticed her. It's not that she hasn't followed humans—she has. In fact, she has had several human hosts over her time as a ghost. Attaching and following a human is the one way she can keep at bay the blackness and cold that threaten to envelop her. But the living, even her hosts, never take note of her. Then one day, she senses that a student in her current host's English class is looking at her. Over the next few days, Helen not only comes to understand why the teen can see her, but falls in love with him. Told from the viewpoint of a ghost, the story is neither a typical ghost tale nor a typical teenage love story. The reader's fear does not drive the plot. Instead, we see the living through the eyes of the nonliving. Helen's new friendship with a teen underscores her sadness and loneliness. In this way, Whitcomb's descriptions and slow pace are more reminiscent of Anne Rice's vampire novels than of Stephen King's works. Older teens drawn to Rice's work as well as those who enjoy love stories with a twist will definitely want to read this insightful and unusual take on life and love. KLIATT Codes: SA—Recommended for senior high school students, advanced students, and adults. 2005, Houghton Mifflin, Graphia, 288p., Ages 15 to adult.
—Debra Smith
For 130 years, Helen haunted a series of hosts. Helen reached for the first and "dragged [herself], hand over hand, out of the earth and quaked at her feet, clutching her skirts, weeping muddy tears." As each of her hosts died, she found another to cling to, until she haunted Mr. Brown in his classroom where James first saw her. James is a soldier who died years before, inhabiting Billy, a teen whose spirit has given up his body after a drug overdose. The connection between Helen and James is immediate and overwhelming. James and Helen search for a body for her to inhabit so that the lovers can touch physically. Together they explore their powerful attraction, combining adolescent yearning with mature desire. Jenny, the girl that Helen has possessed, is from a strict religious family that has suffocated her spirit. Billy has a history of drug abuse and family violence. The two ghosts must learn to live in these contemporary families with no prior knowledge of the students' lives. This compelling, supernatural love story explores the meaning of life, the afterlife, forgiveness, and religion. Helen and James come to terms with their earlier lives and help the teens they inhabit before they find full redemption. The reader has sympathy for the complex characters, even those whose actions one hates. The writing is almost poetic in the description of Helen's sensations as she explores the world in a physical body. Whitcomb is a new author to watch. VOYA CODES: 5Q 4P S (Hard to imagine it being any better written; Broad general YA appeal; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2005, Graphia/Houghton Mifflin, 288p., Trade pb. Ages 15 to 18.
—Deborah L. Dubois
School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up-Laura Whitcomb's compellingly complicated story (Graphix, 2005) combines dead spirits, existential angst, teens in modern families inhabiting both ends of the neglected/overprotected spectrum, unprotected teen sex, accusations of misconduct against a teacher, and requited love. Helen, who died as a young woman in the mid-19th century, has not been able to attain her final rest. Across the years, she has attached her invisible self to one living "host" after another, staying by each one's side so as to maintain enough life force to work through whatever happened at her death-and in her own life-that won't allow her to go peacefully. The hosts have no conscious sense of her presence-she does them no harm-and Helen moves on to a new host when her current one dies. In the 21st century, she's been attached to a high school English teacher. Helen realizes that a student in one of the classes sees her quite clearly. In fact, the contemporary student, Billy, is actually a young man named James who, like Helen, died but has gone a step beyond haunting a living host to inhabiting the living body of one. Lauren Molina's performance of this ghost story is appropriately breathy, although some of the characters-including James-sound too young because of her high voice. The denouement here is exciting and unexpected, giving listeners much to ponder and discuss: Are such hauntings plausible? How responsible are overly protective parents for poor decisions their teens make? When is circumstantial evidence really enough for anyone to draw absolutely certain conclusions?-Francisca Goldsmith, Berkeley Public Library, CA Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
What should be a sure-fire ghost story/romance fails to ignite a spark. Helen is a spirit that cleaves to hosts, unsure of why she's bound to earth. She picks very literary hosts (including Emily Dickinson), such as her current high-school English teacher. It is at school that Helen is "seen" for the first time, by teenager Billy Blake. Turns out Billy is actually "James"-another spirit who's figured out how to inhabit a body. He and Helen fall in love, and he convinces her to find a body so that they can have sex (semi-graphically depicted, and somehow also coldly so). Their hosts both have troubled homes (one drugs, the other religion, both with messed-up parents), leading to a predictable close. Unsurprising plot, under-developed characters and adequate prose doom this first novel. The love story, and the device of a spirit gaining flesh, should be emotionally rich fodder, yet Whitcomb takes these nowhere. Young women will be drawn to this book, and will probably finish it, but unless the collection needs another forgettable easy-sell, skip it. (Fiction. YA)

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Product Details

Demco Media
Publication date:
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 7.80(h) x 0.90(d)
Age Range:
14 - 17 Years

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One Someone was looking at me, a disturbing sensation if you’re dead. I was with my teacher, Mr. Brown. As usual, we were in our classroom, that safe and wooden-walled box — the windows opening onto the grassy field to the west, the fading flag standing in the chalk dust corner, the television mounted above the bulletin board like a sleeping eye, and Mr. Brown’s princely table keeping watch over a regiment of student desks. At that moment I was scribbling invisible comments in the margins of a paper left in Mr. Brown’s tray, though my words were never read by the students. Sometimes Mr. Brown quoted me, all the same, while writing his own comments. Perhaps I couldn’t tickle the inside of his ear, but I could reach the mysterious curves of his mind.
Although I could not feel paper between my fingers, smell ink, or taste the tip of a pencil, I could see and hear the world with all the clarity of the Living. They, on the other hand, did not see me as a shadow or a floating vapor. To the Quick, I was empty air. Or so I thought. As an apathetic girl read aloud from Nicholas Nickleby, as Mr. Brown began to daydream about how he had kept his wife awake the night before, as my spectral pen hovered over a misspelled word, I felt someone watching me. Not even my beloved Mr. Brown could see me with his eyes. I had been dead so long, hovering at the side of my hosts, seeing and hearing the world but never being heard by anyone and never, in all these long years, never being seen by human eyes. I held stone still while the room folded in around me like a closing hand. When I looked up, it was not in fear but in wonder. My vision telescoped so that therewas only a small hole in the darkness to see through. And that’s where I found it, the face that was turned up to me. Like a child playing at hide-and-seek, I did not move, in case I had been mistaken about being spotted. And childishly I felt both the desire to stay hidden and a thrill of anticipation about being caught. For this face, turned squarely to me, had eyes set directly on mine. I was standing in front of the blackboard. That must be it, I thought. He’s reading something Mr. Brown wrote there — the chapter he’s to study at home that night or the date of the next quiz. The eyes belonged to an unremarkable young man, like most of the others at this school. Since this group of students was in the eleventh grade, he could be no more than seventeen. I’d seen him before and thought nothing of him. He had always been vacant, pale, and dull. If anyone were to somehow manage to see me with his eyes, it would not be this sort of lad — this mere ashes-on-the-inside kind. To really see me, someone would have to be extraordinary. I moved slowly, crossing behind Mr. Brown’s chair, to stand in the corner of the classroom beside the flag stand. The eyes did not follow me. The lids blinked slowly.
But, the next moment, the eyes flicked to mine again, and a shock went through me. I gasped and the flag behind me stirred. Yet this boy’s expression never changed, and next moment, he was staring at the blackboard again. His features were so blank, I decided I had imagined it. He had looked to the corner because I had disturbed the flag a little. This happened frequently. If I were to move too quickly too near an object, it might tremble or rock, but not much, and never when I wanted it to. When you are Light, it is not the breeze of your rushing past a flower that makes it tremble. Nor is it the brush of your skirts that starts a drape fluttering. When you are Light, it is only your emotions that can send a ripple into the tangible world. A flash of frustration when your host closes a novel he is reading too soon might stir his hair and cause him to check the window for a draft. A sigh of mourning at the beauty of a rose you cannot smell might startle a bee away. Or a silent laugh at a misused word might cause a student’s arm to prickle with an inexplicable chill.
The bell rang, and every student, including this pale young man, slapped books closed and stood, with a scrape of chair feet, shuffling toward the door. Mr. Brown snapped immediately from his bed dream. “I’ll bring a video tomorrow,” he said. “And don’t fall asleep during it, or I’ll make you act it out yourselves.” Two or three of his students groaned at this threat, but most were already gone, mentally if not physically.
So this was how it began. When you are Light, day and night have less meaning. The night is not needed for rest — it’s merely an annoying darkness for several hours. But a chain of days and nights is the way in which the Quick measure their journeys. This is the story of my journey back through the Quick. I would climb into flesh aagain for a chain of six days.

I stayed shamefully close to my Mr. Brown for the rest of the day. When you cleave to a host, it is nnot necessary to shadow the person from room to room. I would never follow a male host into the bath, for instance, or into the marriage bed, man or woman. I learned from the beginning how to survive. From the moment I found my first host, I had been devoted to the rules that kept my punishment at bay.
I remembered all my hauntings clearly, but only a few images stayed with me from the time before I was Light. I remembered a man’s head on the pillow beside me. He had straw-colored hair, and when he opened his eyes, he was looking not at me but toward the window, where wind was rattling the pane. A handsome face that brought no comfort. I remembered catching a glimpse of my own eyes in the window reflection as I watched this man ride away on a black horse through the farm gate, the horizon heavy with clouds. And I remembered seeing a pair of frightened eyes looking up at me, full of tears. I could remember my name, my age, that I was a woman, but death swallowed the rest. The pain, once I was dead, was very memorable. I was deep inside the cold, smothering belly of a grave when my first haunting began. I heard her voice in the darkness reading Keats, “Ode to a Nightingale.” Icy water was burning down my throat, splintering my ribs, and my ears were filled with a sound like a demon howling, but I could hear her voice and reached for her. One desperate hand burst from the flood and caught the hem of her gown. I dragged myself, hand over hand, out of the earth and quaked at her feet, clutching her skirts, weeping muddy tears. All I knew was that I had been tortured in the blackness, and then I had escaped. Perhaps I hadn’t reached the brightness of heaven, but at least I was here, in her lamplight, safe. It took me a long time to realize that she was not reading to me; nor were her shoes spotted with mud. I held her, yet my arms did not wrinkle the folds of her dress. I cried at her feet like a wretch about to be stoned, kissing the hem of Christ’s garment, but she didn’t see me, couldn’t hear my sobs. I looked at her — a fragile face, pale but rosy at the cheeks and nose as if it were always winter around her. She had gray duck-down hair piled on her head like a bird’s nest and sharp green eyes, clever as a cat’s. She was solid and warm with a fluttering pulse. She wore a black dress with mismatched buttons, the elbows worn thin. Tiny spots of ink dotted her butter- colored shawl. The cover of the little book in her hands was embossed with the figure of a running stag. It was all real and blazing with detail. But I was shadow, light as mist, mute as the wallpaper. “Please help me,” I said to her. But deaf to me, she turned the page. “Thou wast not born for death, immortal Bird . . .” As she read aloud the familiar words, I knew what

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