Dead Things Are Closer Than They Appear by Robin Wasley

Those who favor fantasy literature laced with an apocalyptic zombie thread will likely enjoy Dead Things Are Closer Than They Appear by Robin Wasley. The plot revolves around seventeen-year-old Isidora (Sid) Spencer who claims to have no best self; she is one self without a qualifier. This adopted Korean girl has an adopted brother, Matt Spencer, whom she loves deeply but doesn’t know completely. Matt has a secret: he is a Guardian of the fault-line in Llewellyn (Wellsie) where the ghosts look like rainbows made of smoke. People come to Wellsie “to stand where magic lies sealed beneath the earth” (1).

The fault line has eight Guardians, and carries a key that can unlock the magic. Along with Matt, Eleni Christakos, Daisy Radcliffe-Aster, Shandy Ohno, Josh Monroe, Williams James Morrissey, Brian Aster, and Parker van der Kamp all possess a magical power and have been trusted to keep the magic contained. When the power-crazed Paul Ford kills Josh Monroe for his key and the fault line opens, the town is overrun by monsters and magic. The remaining Guardians, joined by Sid and Hyacinth—and later Angel Reyes—must find the missing key and seal the rent.

Although Wasley’s book contains plenty of superhero-style action, it also shares insight about human nature. Besides drawing some fairly obvious conclusions—for example, that we are the sum of our experiences, that we are who we are “because it happened this way” (89), Wasley explores the notion of human motivation and how we all yearn to be seen, to be valued, and to be chosen rather than being overlooked as ordinary or less than.

With this plot thread, Wasley takes Sid on a hero’s journey—a quest for self-discovery. In keeping true to this archetype, Sid experiences adventure and peril as her character, strength, and skill are tested. Along the way, she learns valuable lessons about how life is equal parts terrible and beautiful and that life isn’t a competition about one of us being better than another but about how we all make an impact on the lives of those we touch, on the connections we make. We change one another. Sid also learns that we get to choose the person we want to be and that life’s journey is not a straight path but one with ups, downs, curves, and obstacles.

Some of the other insight that comes from Wasley’s novel includes that magic—a metaphor for talent and a sense of wonder—resides in every one of us and that we all come to realize on our own that no one has everything. We do not journey alone. Instead, we share our magic and find friends, hobbies, and interests that fill any gaps for us—completing us and making us feel more whole. Furthermore, if we try to rob others of their magic, it potentially makes them into monsters.

Additional lessons include how caring for ourselves and caring for others is a balance. Sometimes, we suppress unbearable feelings, sealing them away in a type of metal lock box. However, we have to be cautious about the limitations we make on our thoughts and feelings. “There are things that need to be thought. And felt. Even if they’re unpleasant” (313).

Under the influence of Wasley’s pen, the novel also asks important and complicated questions: How does an ordinary person survive in an extraordinary world, and “What is survival if you lose everything that matters to you” (146)?

  • Posted by Donna

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