Imagine if the living could see and experience the energy left behind by departed human beings. Similar to television shows like Ghost Whisperer and movies like The Sixth Sense, Kim Harrington’s latest book, The Dead and Buried explores this notion of spectral visitations. Five-year-old Colby can both see and communicate with the ghost of Kayla Sloane, whose bedroom he now occupies after his family purchased the home at6 Silver Road where Kayla died and may have been murdered.
Determined to save her brother from the ghost and its threats of harm, Jade Kelley—a seventeen year old senior at Woodbridge High—promises the spirit she’ll solve the mystery surrounding her suspicious death. When Jade befriends Donovan O’Mara and Kane Woodward—the two boys who also pursued Kayla’s heart—the promise grows complicated. Although Jade loved ghost stories when she was little, now that her brother has his own glimmering ghost girl and Jade has a mystery to solve, the affection evaporates.
Feeling like a traveler without a map at her new school, Jade finds the honest but nerdy friendship of Alexa Palmer refreshing among teens who often shroud their true selves in the competition for status. On this subject, Jade shares a human truth: “If people showed the honest versions of themselves instead of the scrubbed, toned-down versions, we’d all be a little more interesting” (35). Jade is also drawn to the “adorkable” Donovan, a quiet, artistic boy with a haunted look. Curious about what troubles him and determined to “fix him,” Jade adopts Donovan as her project. While collecting her intel on the secretive young gamer and performing her murder investigation, Jade accepts the friendship of Kane, the popular jock who’d like to call their time together, dates, even though Jade insists they’re not. Still, she uses Kane as a way to get close to Kayla’s previous friend network. One by one, these individuals become possible suspects, and Jade comes to understand that “no matter what facts our brains process, the heart is a stubborn organ” (247).
During the investigation, Jade wonders why, if ghosts are real, she can’t feel any energy from her deceased mother, who is always hovering in the cracks of conversations and in the corners of Jade’s thoughts. Exasperated and afraid, Jade turns to her step-mom Marie for help and advice, but Marie accuses Jade of undermining the family’s tranquility. With tensions elevated at home, school—with its routine and normalcy—becomes Jade’s safety net. Jade also gains consolation from the gemstones left to her by her mother—selecting the gem that might empower her to accomplish the day’s events, like blue topaz for verbalizing feelings or peridot to guard against evil spirits. This gemstone symbolism adds an interesting layer to the book, as does Harrington’s examination of human nature.
As it tells its ghost story, love story, and adolescent coping story, the book claims that we all carry ghosts inside us, making our spirits weary and that secrets can haunt us: “Secrets are like a disease. They infect you and destroy you from the inside out” (288). Although her understanding only comes after tragedy, Jade learns that sometimes the ghosts are heavier than the secrets and that opening up relieves this weight.
- Posted by Donna