Ruined and Unbroken, by Paula Morris

After reading Paula Morris's novel Dark Souls earlier this spring, I decided to hunt down the two books in her earlier series, Ruined and Unbroken. Dark Souls had some shaky characterization, but Morris's plot was creative, creepy, and rich in historical detail (all things I approve of in a ghost story), so my hopes were high.

Ruined is set in modern-day New Orleans, where fifteen-year-old Rebecca Brown is sent for a six-month-long stay with a family friend while her father is on a business trip. Rebecca sticks out like a sore thumb, having little interest in New Orleans's celebratory rituals and stratified class system. Her social interaction is limited to two people: Anton Grey, a handsome, popular boy from one of the city's old-money families, and Lisette, a girl she meets in Lafayette Cemetery. Unfortunately, several things soon become clear about Rebecca's new friends: Lisette is a ghost, the fact that Rebecca can see her is not a good sign, and Anton knows more about them both than he's telling.

Unbroken picks up several months after the events of Ruined. Rebecca returns to New Orleans, where a ghost of a 19th century boy named Frank has begged her to help him complete the errand he was sent on when he died: the delivery of a locket. The task sounds easy (Frank claims to know the locket's exact location), but Rebecca has acquired more than her fair share of enemies—of both the supernatural and flesh-and-blood variety.

There are a lot of good things about these books, and one small but critical failure. Morris's dreamy, atmospheric depiction of New Orleans is superb, and both of her plots center around dramatic historical tidbits. (Ruined is about an 1850s outbreak of Yellow Fever, while Unbroken centers around Edgar Degas's year-long visit to New Orleans in the 1870s.) Rebecca is an inoffensive heroine—bland, but reasonably pleasant. Sadly, both plot climaxes involve way too much Anton, who tanks as a romantic lead. He's totally ineffectual in Ruined, where he spends his time waffling between delivering cryptic warnings and helplessly wringing his hands, and only slightly less irritating in Unbroken. Not all teen books require a dynamic love interest, of course, but Anton is such a drag that he casts a pall over all the truly interesting stuff going on around him.
Posted by: Julianka


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