About the Book

Title: Absent
Published: 2013
Swoonworthy Scale: 2

Cover Story: Poignantly Covertastic
BFF Charm: Yay!
Talky Talk: Beautifully Right On
Bonus Factor: Ghost Physics, Ghost Possession, Tasty Business
Relationship Status: The Sam Wheat To My Oda Mae Brown

Cover Story: Poignantly Covertastic

Does Katie Williams have the best covers or what!? Her first one was a beaut and this one is no different. Best of all, it means something! A something that took me far too long to realize, but once I did, I appreciated the cover even MORE.

The Deal:

Paige Wheeler is dead. OK, end of story, byeeeeee…

All right, so what actually happens is that Paige dies by accidentally falling off the roof of her high school. And now she’s a ghost bound to the school grounds, along with Evan and Brooke, other students who have also died at the school.*

*Note to self: don’t go to that school. Because, y’know, being a creepy grownup who already has a high school diploma isn’t enough of a deterrent.

Back in the land of the living, someone is spreading rumours that Paige’s death was no accident; people are saying — and worse, believing — that she died by suicide. Paige has no choice but to suffer the slander — that is, until she discovers how to possess the living. By controlling her classmates, Paige tries to control the narrative… while having a bit of fun, too.

BFF Charm: Yay!

Yay BFF Charm

Personality wise, Paige is a girl after my own sarcastic cantankerous heart. Sure, she’s a bit dour, but girlfriend did die (although she was a grouch in life, too). But she’s a good friend, and I’d LOVE to third wheel her and her BFF Usha.* We could be a merry trio of outcasts, bestowing nicknames upon all the cliques in school. And maybe Usha and I can tag-team to get Paige to open up and stop masking her true feelings behind a veneer of aloofness. Don’t let pride stop you from FEELING ALL THE FEELS, Paige! At least you’re dead, so you don’t have to contend with black mascara tears.

*Err, back when Paige was alive, I mean. FYA does not endorse befriending corpses.

My only gripe about Paige is that she’s way too concerned about how people think she died, since she can’t really do anything about it. But then I remember that she’s dead and literally has nothing better to do. Though when she IS able to do something about it, I can’t fault her obsession too much since suicide is a helluva rumour to fake.

Swoonworthy Scale: 2…ish?

After Paige dies, she’s still hung up on her secret ex-boyfriend Lucas. And do y’all know what kind of tree I hate? PINE.* Especially since GIRL, YOU’RE DEAD. I know you’re still a teenager, but have a little foresight PLEASE.

*That’s a boldfaced lie. I live in conifer country, and pine is most agreeable when preceded by Chris.

And then there’s Wes Nolan, who so very nearly earned this book a Mysterious Loner Dude bonus factor. It’s not that Wes isn’t mysterious nor a loner (nor a dude), but he harboured quite the unrequited crush on Paige back when she was corporeal. You might ask, being crushed on from afar by an MLD? What’s not to like?! While this may have been a heavy-rotation fantasy for some of y’all, there isn’t enough pre-existing basis for it to be believable for me.

Howevs, Wes Nolan* does interact with Paige-Possessees, and there are some sweet moments and glimpses of what could have been. But again, I couldn’t fully invest in this budding sort-of-relationship, due to all my mental shouting of “BUT SHE’S DEAD!”.

*Yeah, he totally has use-the-full-name status. Sorry, Meredith Borders.

Talky Talk: Beautifully Right On

This could be its own bonus factor, because HOT DAYUM does Katie Williams have a way with words. Can she narrate my life for a day? ‘Cause I’m sure she’d make even my day job sound freaking gorgeous. Plus, her knack for stunning and creative imagery never feels inauthentic coming from the pensive Paige.

And on top of the sundae of goodness that is Katie Williams’ prose, I was completely engrossed in the story. That little touch of supernatural ghostliness left me completely clueless as to which way the story would go. But that didn’t matter, ’cause going along for the ride itself was pretty sweet.

Bonus Factor: Ghost Physics

Little ghost sugar cookies

I’m not usually a fan of supernatural/paranormal YA or ghost books of any kind, but I found that Absent flat-out WORKED. Maybe because it’s not so much a ghost story, but a story with a protagonist who’s a ghost.

But mostly, it’s because the ghosts must abide by a special set of laws, much like we breathers have to obey gravity. And Williams has crafted such a carefully thought-out ghost world. I don’t want to give away my favourite detail, but let’s just say the students aren’t the only ghosts at the school.

Bonus Factor: Ghost Possession

This gets its own bonus factor, because Williams addresses the, um, logistics of Paige possessing guys. LOL. And I’m immature.

Bonus Factor: Tasty Business

Tapas Spain

Along with Paige’s possessions come her rediscovery of FOOD. I’ve never considered potato chips as particularly beautiful, but that’s what Williams’ words will do to you.

Relationship Status: The Sam Wheat To My Oda Mae Brown

Once I got to know this book, I became so immersed in its story. Our relationship’s not quite at the “Unchained Melody” level, but it can possess me anytime.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received my free review copy from Chronicle Books. I received neither money nor froyo for this review (dammit!). Absent will be available May 21.

Mandy (she/her) lives in Edmonton, AB. When she’s not raiding the library for YA books, she enjoys eating ice cream (esp. in cold weather), learning fancy pole dance tricks, and stanning BTS. Mandy has been writing for FYA since 2012, and she oversaw all things FYA Book Club from 2013 to 2023.