Sunday, September 16, 2012

Review: Whispers from the Grave by Leslie Rule

Whispers from the Grave
by Leslie Rule

Available as: paperback, Kindle edition, ebook
Pages: 272
Publisher: Andrews McMeel
Publication date: April 3, 2012
Suggested tags: young adult, science fiction, time travel

From Goodreads:
"The similarities between Jenna and Rita were uncanny. They looked and acted exactly alike. Each was experiencing the thrill of first love. Each was empowered with a gift of the supernatural. And each harbored dark secrets. Jenna and Rita could have been sisters. Except for one thing . . . Rita was murdered over a century ago.

Out of the yellowed pages of her diary, Rita's frightening legacy is reborn. But the more Jenna reads of Rita's spellbinding past--of murder, deception, and sinister experiments--the more she fears her own future. Because Rita's history is repeating itself, moment by horrifying moment. And Jenna has to live it.

{ I received this as an ebook from NetGalley. }

I felt a little misled by this one. I had it shelved as a paranormal ghost story, thinking that Jenna lives in the present and Rita is a ghost from the past. But actually Jenna is living in the future, in the 2070s, and Rita lived in the 1970s. And Rita's not a ghost either. I can't tell if the synopsis is intentionally misleading to make it appeal to a wider audience, or if I just assumed from the cover and title that Whispers from the Grave was going to be a ghost story and then interpreted the synopsis accordingly.

Either way... Jenna finds Rita's diary in her attic and realizes that she's reading the words of a girl who was murdered in the town a century ago. Strange things start to happen in her own time, and Jenna thinks that somehow they're connected to Rita's murder. She ends up involved with a psychokinetics study at a science lab along with her friends Suki and Kyle, where she discovers that she has some pretty incredible powers. As she slowly unravels the complicated history of Rita's life and how it's intertwined with her own, she realizes she has to use her powers to try and save Rita, and at the same time save herself.

Without spoiling too much, Whispers from the Grave does have a paranormal element: Rita and Jenna both discover that they have psychokinetic abilities, meaning they can move objects with their mind. At the science lab, Jenna learns that Rita could move objects not only from place to place, but she could move them through time as well. Jenna begins to wonder, if Rita could do that, could she move herself back to Rita's time to try to change the events that led to Rita's death?

Anything else I say about the plot is probably going to spoil things, so I'll hide the rest. (SPOILER - highlight to read:  Jenna does go back to Rita's time, and it was kind of fun to see her go through events from Rita's life, including getting involved with a feminist protest at school. But she has some trouble when she tries to get back to her own time. The "butterfly effect" concept is pretty significant, as Jenna is warned about making changes in the past and how they can drastically affect the future. The ending of the book was a little weak, in my opinion - it's basically saying, "Jenna ignored all the warnings and changed the past, and so she changed the future completely, but she meant well, so it all worked out." I'm a little picky about my time travel books, though, so maybe this ending would be satisfying to other readers.)

I'm typically not into sci-fi, so I can't comment with any sort of authority on the futuristic elements in Whispers from the Grave. I thought some things were a little cheesy (I really hope we don't wear puff suits in the future), but some things I did like, such as the virtual reality program where you can simulate a dream date with your crush or have a picnic with deceased family members (if that actually exists in the future, you'll know where to find me in every waking moment of my free time).

Although it was a little disappointing to start a book expecting a ghost story and end up with a different sort of story entirely, I still enjoyed Whispers from the Grave. The writing is solid and the slow reveal of one secret after another kept me steadily flipping pages. While there are some nice twists, you'll probably be able to figure out most of what's foreshadowed before it comes to pass. Still, it's an interesting time travel read and one that I would recommend to lovers of sci-fi, although not so much to lovers of ghost stories.

Overall rating: 3 out of 5 stars