Title: The Weight of Souls
Author: Bryony Pearce
Publisher: Strange Chemistry
Released: 6th August 2013
Rating: 4 of 5 stars
The Weight of Souls took me by surprise. As good as it looks on the surface, I was not expecting the extra layers that came with it. Pearce brings to the table ghosts, bullying...a secret society and Egyptian mythology. What you see is not just what you get. There is a lot going on, yet it all comes together nicely to form a thoroughly enjoyable read.
Taylor Oh is cursed. Not only can she see the ghosts of murder victims, but when a ghost touches her, they leave a mark on her skin; she has three weeks to find the murderer and pass it on, thus avenging the victim. If not, the Darkness will come and take her instead of the murderer. This is bad enough as it is, but it only gets worse. Justin, popular kid at school and who's made it his life's mission to bully Taylor, is murdered. Does she really want to help him? Help the guy who helped ruin her life? But it's too late. He passes the mark to her and she has to find his murderer in three weeks, otherwise the Darkness will come for her instead. Her findings lead her to the V Club, a secret society that is a little more sinister than just a group of sixth formers messing around. Somehow Taylor needs to find out who exactly killed Justin, preferably without actually dying herself...And what about the fact that she and Justin are becoming closer? Just when Taylor thought her life couldn't be any more complicated, Justin's murder makes it take a turn for the worse.
Pearce wastes no time in introducing us to Taylor's ability, showing us immediately how it works. It's quite a simple idea, really: a girl who sees ghosts. Yet with that comes emotions and questions, and these were explored nicely. Despite the layers in this book, it never became cluttered; it never felt like the author was trying to fit in too much. Everything was connected, with Taylor in the middle to truly bring it all together. The flashbacks and extracts from The Tale of Oh-Fa (a diary of Taylor's ancestor) particularly gave this added flavour. It was also a strange yet compelling mix of ordinary elements, such as bullying, and mythological aspects. Then in the middle was the V Club. This was a well-thought out idea which was interesting to read about. The only thing I would have liked added here would be the truth side of the game, as all the focus was on the dares - understandable, but I would have liked a glimpse of the other side.
Taylor herself was a real character, one easy to relate to. The fact that she gets bullied implies a vulnerability - and she is vulnerable - but she is also strong. Her struggle with her curse comes across clearly - the fact that she has to be on the constant lookout for ghosts because they all come for her and want her to help them means she can't enjoy a normal life. This isn't helped by her father, whose character frustrated me with his obstinacy and absolute refusal to believe that Taylor suffers from nothing more than a genetic condition. All of this made her a character easy to like. Yet Justin's character is, for me, the most transformative. As a bully, and seemingly having no other side to him than that, I disliked him and could not really imagine why Taylor would end up loving him. But when he is a ghost and we learn more about him, his character evolves and becomes more complex, until I loved him. He really is sweet; he simply allowed his twisted guy logic to lead him the wrong way (what is it with guys picking on girls to show their interest?).
The Weight of Souls is a novel commendable in all the themes it explores and its success in doing so. At the moment the matter of a sequel is in question, but I sincerely hope there will be one, as there were certain issues and questions specifically brought up towards the end that I would like to see resolved. But even aside from that, my first experience with this author has left me wanting more. This is definitely one I would recommend.