Indie Book Feature: Unbelievers by Julie Affleck
I do enjoy writing these indie book features. This time the author, Julie Affleck, kindly gave me a paperback copy of her book to read. I think having a physical copy really adds to the experience. It was fun curling up on the couch with a mug of tea and flipping through the pages of a real book. So, without further ado, here's my take on this ghost story.
I'm afraid the cover for this book isn't doing it justice. The picture is a person's hand superimposed over a splash of water. Though the imagery suits the story well, it's so dark you can only see it if you look closely.
The wavy text for the title and author name looks pixelated in the physical book. If the text was higher resolution, straightened out, and if a serif font was used for the author name, it would look much better.
For some reason, the author left the spine blank on the paperback cover. There's plenty of room to have at least the title and author's last name, so I'm uncertain why it is blank. Having those details would help it to look more complete.
The writing and plot of this story are actually quite good. Fans of Stephen King and Supernatural would probably enjoy it quite a lot.
The prologue starts off with a flashback of sorts, showing a group of men preparing to kill someone who they believe is murdering women and girls in their town. They attack him and dump him, bound and gagged, in the river. And that's where it leaves off before the first chapter begins. A rather nice hook, I think.
Chapter one shows us a group of friends heading across a bridge to grab lunch. One of the boys goes into a sort of trance and nearly jumps into the river below. He is only saved because his friends are there and grab him before he plunges to the icy depths. This, understandably, freaks all of them out. And we soon learn that the brother of one of the girls had jumped off the bridge in an apparent suicide five years earlier.
Many more creepy water-related things start happening to the friends after this. Ice water mysteriously fills shoes when no one is looking. Spilled water appears on the floor. A sink fills with water, a disembodied hand reaching out to grab a girl.
Leigh, the main character, decides to figure out what is going on. She pays a visit to her grandmother and learns that the town bridge has been cursed since a murderer was thrown to his death in an act of vigilante justice many years ago. The friends discover that, since that time, someone has drowned in the river every five years. They believe that it must be the murderer's ghost seeking revenge.
In the end, the friends manage to protect themselves with rosary beads and holy water and face the ghost that is threatening them. I won't give away the twist at the climax of this story, but they do manage to break the curse and leave the ghost in peace.
This book is an enjoyable read, on par with many traditionally published books I have picked up, but it could still use a little polishing. There are some minor text errors, one place where it slips into first-person point-of-view, and a couple of places where the narrator breaks the fourth wall.
I think the story is more mature than the characters described. Even though I knew the kids were only supposed to be about twelve, I couldn't help thinking of them as closer to fifteen. Aside from having to ask for rides everywhere, they seemed very independent and mature for pre-teens. And, when studying the events that started the curse, they find out that the murderer had raped children and beaten his wives to death, not material I would be comfortable with my pre-teen reading. I feel this is better classified as a young-adult novella rather than middle-grade fiction.
Overall, I think this is a good quality story. It has compelling characters, an interesting plot, and kept my attention throughout. Definitely worth the download price.