Sixteen-year-old Stephanie Stewart has been helping lost spirits cross over for years, despite her mother's efforts to mold her into the perfect, proper daughter. Unfortunately, Stephanie's secret ability keeps her in no small amount of trouble, and after her latest escapade (involving an exploding mirror and a dramatic exit from a sleepover) things seem to be taking a turn for the worse. Spirits Stephanie rescued long ago are returning, her mother is forcing her to visit yet another psychiatrist, her best friend is in danger of discovering her late-night rendezvous with the dead, and the mysterious new school heartthrob seems to be taking a bizarrely strong interest in her. As Stephanie is pulled deeper into the dreary and dangerous world of the dead, she realizes that she may not know as much as she thought about the hand fate has dealt her - nor is she the only one in town harboring a terrible secret.
Crossed Out by Kim Baccellia is an interesting blend of typical teenage issues and chilling supernatural secrets. The teenage aspect is treated rather stereotypically, with witchy it-girls and melodramatic protagonists. The stereotypes make it hard to become invested in the characters, whether good or bad, and the melodrama makes the heroine's mental voice a bit amorphous. Still, Stephanie handles her encounters with the dead with surprising and refreshing grace: it's clear the teen has been fulfilling her unearthly duties for years and has come to terms with her calling. Her poise in the face of the impossible shows her admirable strength and confidence, in contrast to her overly dramatic responses to typical teen traumas.
The story plunges headfirst into the action surrounding Stephanie's bizarre powers, and many surprising secrets revealed toward the end leave the reader eager to know more about the source of her abilities. One of the most interesting aspects of Stephanie's ghostly talents are her dreamlike visions, which are vivid, delectably chilling and dramatic - often serving as the prelude to some of the darker and more dangerous scenes. A foreboding chill hangs over the novel, leaving the reader on the edge of their seat with suspicion and building hair-raising suspense. The action, mystery and intrigue finally pick up the pace in the latter pages and, though it takes a while to get there, the conclusion is packed with startling revelations and gut-wrenching danger. Crossed Out is left open for a sequel, which will hopefully delve more deeply into the closet full of skeletons and family secrets hinted at in the final pages.
Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the author. This did not affect my review in any way.