Review: Haunting Violet by Alyxandra Harvey

Alyxandra Harvey's website here // $11.55 from {amazon}
Publisher: Walker Children (June 21, 2011)
Hardcover: 352 pages
Source: Publisher (ARC)
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------  Summary:  

Violet Willoughby doesn't believe in ghosts. But they believe in her. After spending years participating in her mother's elaborate ruse as a fraudulent medium, Violet is about as skeptical as they come in all matters supernatural. Now that she is being visited by a very persistent ghost, one who suffered a violent death, Violet can no longer ignore her unique ability. She must figure out what this ghost is trying to communicate, and quickly because the killer is still on the loose.

Afraid of ruining her chance to escape her mother's scheming through an advantageous marriage, Violet must keep her ability secret. The only person who can help her is Colin, a friend she's known since childhood, and whom she has grown to love. He understands the true Violet, but helping her on this path means they might never be together. Can Violet find a way to help this ghost without ruining her own chance at a future free of lies?

My Thoughts:  

I went into HAUNTING VIOLET conscious of Alyxandra Harvey’s ability to write exciting, fast-paced paranormal romance in THE DRAKE CHRONICLES. So despite HAUNTING VIOLET being marketed as a spooky, spirit-filled murder mystery, a huge deviation from her usual plotline, I still expected it to exhibit the writing capabilities I associate with the name Alyxandra Harvey.  

Verdict: Different, but lacking.

In YA, “murder mystery” tends to imply suspense, dark secrets, and anticipation. Out of the three, HAUNTING VIOLET has only the dark secrets well covered. If I felt any suspense, it was extremely fleeting. If there was any anticipation, it disappeared when what happened just… happened. Some things were life-threatening enough or ghostly enough, but I never felt a true sense of danger or urgency, which I largely attribute to poor character development. Primarily that of our heroine, Violet, who’s the dreaded “okay:” a little bit of everything (bravery, endurance, love, brains), but not much of anything.  Conversely, Violet’s mother is at the extremes of evil, but a sad history or occasional streak of humanity would have made her character that much scarier in its understandability. Looking back, I see so much unrealized potential that could have been realized with more yin & yang in the characters’ personalities and/or histories.

As for the mystery itself, rather than a steady incline of clues, it was a mixture of one pivotal suspect and a number of random smaller ones were either: a) superfluous, or b) obvious. The pivotal suspect? WHO is this creepy man and WHY does he keep appearing everywhere. OH, YOU, CREEPER. Problem was, creeper factor? Yes. Danger factor? No. So that was interesting for 50 pages or so, but it could’ve easily been solved in those 50 instead of being dragged out for another 200. That’s not to say the smaller clues and ghostly signs weren’t interesting – you don’t see chandeliers falling every day – but they simply don’t seem at all necessary when the ending twist is revealed. Like the icing on a cake that first needs more sugar.

That being said, in my eyes, the ending redeemed HAUNTING VIOLET. My thoughts while reading can be essentially summed up as (page approximates from ARC):

50 pages in: “Beautiful setting. Oh, a clue! I wonder where this will go…”
60 pages in: “Oh, that’s cool. A ghost. Hm.”

170 pages in: “COME ON, VIOLET, GO FOR IT. Can’t you see? Auisdha3e#)*#3rfysdAW(_@?!” 

310 pages in: “WOAH. Okay, is this it? Yay, they get a happy ending.” 

BOOK SHUT. *feels satisfied but kind of apathetic*

In spite of my seemingly endless complaints, HAUNTING VIOLET was actually a mildly enjoyable read. It just failed to meet my standards for solid mysteries. I do give kudos to Alyxandra Harvey for fleshing out a plausible 18th century society, complete with stunning balls and proper etiquette – and I’ll be anywhere that promises sparkly gowns, moonlit rendezvous’, and honey-coated deceit. HAUNTING VIOLET really had an intriguing plot during a lovely time period, and with proper execution, its plot could definitely have taken the book from ordinary to nail-biting, breath-stopping extraordinary. Perhaps next time – and, yes, I'll still be keeping an eye out for a next time.

My Rating: 3 out of 5

Bottom Line: HAUNTING VIOLET was there, and I read it. That pretty much sums up my feelings for it. However, looking at other reviews, it seems HAUNTING VIOLET is one of those books that's either meh or OMGAMAZING, with most people falling in the latter. So if you're an Alyxandra Harvey or ghostly mysteries fan, I recommend giving it a try. Not the right haunt for me, but maybe it will be for you.

Cover: It's beautiful. I love the soft, watercolor feel it has to it.

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