[A note: if you are studying this book in class or doing homework, seriously, I cannot and will not tell you what happens in chapter three, how it ends, what the theme is, etc. Here’s my policy on homework questions.]
Garnet’s just putting in the time at school until he’s through high school and can get on with the rest of his life. He’s never quite fit in, having been pegged by clueless teachers as everything from ADD to deaf. Really, he’s just bored. But school surprises Garnet–or more specifically, his opponent in a classroom debate knocks his feet (metaphorically) right out from under him. It’s ironic, but while arguing vehemently against the existence of love at first sight, Garnet falls hard for Raphaella Skye. Fortunately for Garnet, Raphaella finds him just as intriguing as he finds her.
As Garnet and Raphaella get to know each other, life keeps moving around them. Garnet’s jhournalist mother heads off for a dangerous assignment in East Timor, and Garnet agrees to take a house-sitting job for a friend of the family, which is where he meets another woman. But this woman’s been dead for a century and a half. Garnet is plagued by unsettling dreams, and fearful voices, and traces the mystery back to an abandoned church. He and Raphaella will have to untangle the past together.
This is a ghost story, a romance, and a book about prejudice and hate. Sounds a bit much? Not for William Bell (who, incidentally, just won the CLA YA Book of the Year Award for his latest, The Blue Helmet). Okay, the bit with his mother in danger fits just a little bit too neatly thematically into what’s going on with Garnet, but given all the good points…
We’ve got strong, capable, genuinely interesting characters. There’s tension between Garnet and his parents because he doesn’t want to finish school, yet Garnet doesn’t decide by the end of the book that school is good for him and he loves it. There’s a bit of a mystery around Raphaella, and why her mother doesn’t like Garnet. But more than anything, the people in this book are genuinely interesting, with a full range of emotions, interests and desires.
Also, it’s a ghost story. I will freely admit that I love ghost stories, and have a guilty addiction to shows like Creepy Canada. Bell does a great job at developing the suspense, the mystery surrounding the haunting, and some genuinely spooky scenes. Most importantly, there’s a strong (wrenching) story behind the ghosts. So if you like your scary stories to have some substance to them, try Stones.