Reviews

Arc Review: The Reckless Afterlife of Harriet Stoker by Lauren James 👻 Vengeful Ghosts

Arc Review_ Harriet Stoker

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CW’s: Violence, Gore, Death/Murder, Abuse (physical & emotional), Poisoning

Representation 🌷 Pan MC, Black Gay MC, Questioning Bisexual MC, Brown hijabi SC

“Congratulations, new kid. Welcome to the afterlife.”

What if death is only the beginning?

When Harriet Stoker dies after falling from a balcony in a long-abandoned building, she discovers a group of ghosts, each with a special power.

Felix, Kasper, Rima and Leah welcome Harriet into their world, eager to make friends with the new arrival after decades alone. Yet Harriet is more interested in unleashing her own power, even if it means destroying everyone around her. But when all of eternity is at stake, the afterlife can be a dangerous place to make an enemy.

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Review

Thank you to Netgalley and Walker Books for providing me with a digital copy in exchange for an honest review! All quotes are taken from the Arc and therefore subject to changes.

“Being a good person isn’t an option when someone so strong-willed tells you that you’re weak, makes you feel helpless, and spend all their time chipping away at you. Just being functional is hard enough.”

I liked the original approach to ghosts and the afterlife. This is the perfect October read, as the book is all about ghosts and life after death! The approach to ghosts was very interesting and definitely added something new. Basically, ghosts are bound to the place they have died in and cannot escape it without disintegrating. The latter would cause them to cease to exist and move on to whatever truly comes after death and the ghostly afterlife. I also liked that all of them have energy levels that determine if they can move around and use their powers, as every ghost develops a special power! That was so cool, as I love superpowers and here it added to the existing social dynamics! A lot of ghosts died in this particular building, so there are several groups with different standings and especially the sinister Tricksters who offer deals in exchange for favors, usually with people who have useful and interesting powers. Several powers that we see include possession, hypnotism, barriers, invisibility, shapeshifting, and much more. I loved exploring all the powers and that they come with a price, as using them drains energy. Once a ghost has lost too much energy it becomes a ‘Shell’, basically turning into a vegetative state, unable to do anything. If someone else dies closeby – as Harriet did – a burst of energy is unleashed and reawakens ghosts that lost most of their energy. That’s how the story got started!

“You aren’t as funny as you think you are!” Kasper yelled at Rima. “Once I overheard you memorizing puns in the bathroom!” Leah interjected, “He’s right. You said that even your mum never used to laugh at your jokes, Rima.” “All of my jokes,” Rima corrected. “I said all of my jokes. And I told you that in confidence, Leah! If you keep this up, I’m gonna stop being best friends with you.” “When?” Leah asked, longingly.”

The characters are the heart of the story & there are so many found family vibes.  Apart from Harriet – who is new to this whole ghost thing – we have a crew of ghosts who have been together for decades and now find themselves reawakened again. I loved their strong bond and how they had carved out a piece of their afterlife for their little family, as all of them mostly stay together and apart from the other ghosts. My favorite had to be Felix, a gay boy who’s spent his afterlife pining after a boy (Kasper) who might not ever love him back. However, he loves his little friend group so much and is suspicious of any newcomers like Harriet, especially when she starts to act out. I also love Rima who’s a very warm-hearted, bubbly, and friendly person who is immediately open to including Harriet in their group, but who can also be frustratingly naive at times. She always believes in the best in people, even when this is a bad impulse. Her best friend is Leah, one of the oldest ghosts in the building, who is more sarcastic and pragmatic, more like the Mom Friend! I liked that we got the perspective of all the characters and not just Harriet, as it provided a balanced story and let us see things from different angles!

“She was very aware that she was pretending to be upbeat and calm about this whole thing. If she stopped smiling, she would break down, and that wasn’t something she could do in front of strangers. She’d always been taught never to show anyone a sign of weakness because someone would try to use it again her.”

Harriet is a great anti-heroine with an interesting character Arc. The title alone tells us that Harriet’s afterlife is not peaceful and among the established found family of Ghosts (Felix, Kasper, Rima, and Leah) as well as the other ghosts in the building, she is the newcomer. Harriet has no idea about how to cope with her new death and is desperate to leave the building and return to her grandmother. Right from the beginning, I found her interesting, as we quickly learn that Harriet is manipulative, ambitious, and cunning, trying to use the ghosts who take to her as information and trading what little she has to offer. Harriet is definitely adaptable, but also reckless and unable to connect with others. She never had any real friends and was taught by her grandmother to see others only for their social capital. So all Harriet knows is how to use people to her advantage, not how to be comfortable among friends. It’s hard for her to see that Felix’s friend group could help her. Instead, she often only relies on herself, making many grave mistakes because she lacks the important information about the dynamics between all the ghosts. Her anti-heroine Arc was well-written as you could see where she comes from and how all her desires and decisions escalated into making her into a threat. This was especially interesting as we also saw the other characters’ perspectives in addition to her own. Harriet ould be unlikable but her character was well explored and she does face consequences and gets called out. Highlight to see SPOILERS! We later learn that Harriet was abused all her life by her grandmother who not only killed her parents but isolated her on purpose so she would always be there when she needed her. The book is also about Harriet slowly unpacking her trauma and realizing that she is actually afraid of her grandmother and that she was actually abused all her life. It’s a difficult scenario to write but I thought that the author did a good job showing the signs of Harriet’s abuse way before her grandmother joins her in the afterlife. I also appreciated that Harriet got turned around and joined the others in the fight in the end. She accepted the consequences of her actions and tried what she could to redeem herself. The others still didn’t 100% forgive her, but the end gives hope for Harriet to one day get a second chance with them.

“Kasper Jedynak”, the blond boy said, preening slightly. “4B”. He shuffled his hand through his hair, which was surprisingly fluffy. “Casper? Like the friendly ghost?” A much-beleaguered look crossed his face. “Bad coincidence. Don’t bother with the jokes, I’ve heard them all before.” “Though he is very friendly”, Rima piped up. Kasper sighed.”

The plot also stayed interesting and with high stakes. The dynamics and hierarchy among the ghosts were interesting to explore, especially with Harriet’s arrival as a new ghost who quickly become a threat. There is a great sense of foreboding and though the story is set only in one place (the building Harriet died in), there is never a dull moment and I was on the edge of my seat the whole time. There was quite a bit of mystery in the story and adding an almost omniscient character in between the chapters was interesting, as we try to uncover who is talking and what secrets they are hiding, as some things are slowly building up. The author also has a fantastic writing style, which I found great to read and got me really invested in the story! I read another book by her – The Loneliest Girl in the Universe – and her books are perfect to binge-read!

IN CONCLUSION.The Reckless Afterlife of Harriet Stoker was an interesting new approach to ghosts and the afterlife with found family vibes and an interesting anti-heroine. The plot is full of suspense, mystery, and a great sense of foreboding, that made this a thrilling and high stakes reading experience! If you’re looking for a new take on ghosts to read in October this is your book! 👻

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Have you read The Reckless Afterlife of Harriet Stoker? What is your favorite book featuring ghosts? 👻

15 thoughts on “Arc Review: The Reckless Afterlife of Harriet Stoker by Lauren James 👻 Vengeful Ghosts

  1. I have never heard of this book before but it sounds amazing! Found family and ghosts with superpowers and an anti-heroine?? Where do I have to sign?? I added it to my TBR.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Ahh, I’m so excited for this book! I’m fairly certain I already commented the same thing twice on different posts where you mentioned this book, but third time’s the charm and all that, so maybe I’ll finally get to it, lmao. In any case, found family + anti-heroine are all I needed to become truly intrigued, so I’m really-really hoping I’ll be in the mood for this. (I’m currently reading adult horror and thriller books, but maybe my mood will change, let’s hope.) Great review, Caro!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. So happy to hear that you’re so excited! I hope you end up enjoying The Reckless Afterlife of Harriet Stoker 💗 I loved the found family trope and the intriguing anti-heroine so much, it made the book so interesting!! I hope you’ll be able to read it once you’re in the mood for it! Thank you 🥰

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I read it in August! (I love all things ghost LOL). I pretty much agree with anything you said; the only thing in which our reviews differ is that the writing style didn’t vibe with me – I felt like the author was almost intruding, if you know what I mean, and I was kept at an arm’s length from the characters (who were pretty solid and memorable though). Also, I liked the mystery narrator, they kept me on my toes for a long time, and ended up being NOT the person I thought they were…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Happy to hear that you liked it as well 😊 The writing style is always something that’s so subjective, so I totally understand that you didn’t vibe with it as much! I also liked the element of the mystery narrator, it made for an interesting element of the story and also kept me guessing 😄

      Like

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