6. The Mediator: Shadowland – Meg Cabot
These books are a very good mid-point between Buffy and chicklit. My impression of Meg Cabot has always been that she writes books that appeal to your traditional girly-girl, and I’m still pretty sure she does. These are the only books of hers that I have read, and I read them because they added something that usually appeals to me – ghosts. And they are very teen, there’s slightly forbidden romance, and Suze Simon is a very teen-girl character, she’s from New York, she moves to California, she judges everyone for wearing pastel colors, she worries about her fashions, and she tends to lost souls. One thing I have to say that I appreciate quite a bit in these books is that Cabot does not lose the family dynamic. Suze is a teenager, she has to live with her now blended family, she has to deal with rules and consequences that normal supernaturally inclined characters don’t have to deal with because they’re orphans or abandoned by their dad or they run away because of their calling, etc. etc. It is important to demonstrate how a character such as Suze can function in a real life context, obviously, she gets in trouble a lot. But, being grounded has its perks in Suze’s case, in the form of a house ghost named Jesse.
Anyway, in Shadowland the series kicks off with a poltergeist and a very normal teenager conflict – Suze stole this ghost’s former boyfriend. What a bitch. So the poltergeist tries to kill both her ex-boyfriend and Suze and Suze gets in trouble because her mentor-mediator Father Dominic would rather she tried the gentle approach when dealing with ghosts, encourage them to move on instead of straight-up exorcise them. But whatever works.
7. Ninth Key
The second entry in the Mediator series mixes Buffy with a little Veronica Mars. Rich people doing scandalous things, trying to trap young Nancy Drew-types inside their blazing inferno estates, Nancy Drew-types kissing the wrong boys and letting ghosts interrupt them, etc. My one real qualm with this series is that it really feels like one book with small asides. I guess Suze is, like, learning things about herself along the way and young people have short attention spans, but this was published in 2001 when Harry Potter and books the size of doorstops were totally possible. Maybe just not for girls, who were still expected to be learning to cook and doing their daily exercises of embroidery – or was that the seventeenth century? In our modern political climate, I sometimes get the centuries confused.
8. Darkest Hour
So, as usual I read this series out of order. Some jerky real teenager was reading book three when I needed to read it and so I had to put it on hold at the library and wait. Ergh. Anyway, the story had certainly moved along in this fourth book and Jesse the house ghost took on a much bigger role than cute dead dude. You know, there are times when I wish these books had taken place in San Dimas, California. San Dimas High School football rules! Anyway again, it seems that the house ghost/cute dead dude had an evil fiancee. Highjinks ensue and before you can say “Deacon, you ditched Napoleon?” everybody’s a mediator and/or dead. Well, deadish, as in for a time. Some people stay dead. Mostly the previously dead ones. Ghosts, eh? What’re you going to do?
Boyfriend fight! Well, one potential boyfriend and one creepy extortionist boy that’s not really a friend fight. Did you know that ghosts can punch you in the face? I bet there are several people who know that, and one of them lives in Las Vegas and spends a lot of time on his hair. As I mentioned previously, these books feel like one big book and that becomes much more apparent once the “real” storyline starts to pick up speed in book four. I do not recommend reading these without getting your hands on all of them simultaneously…which is more possible now that they’re being republished as multi-book editions – at least the first two books have been re-published that way, with a less colorful cover. It’s one of those “oh look there’s some random girl on the cover of this young adult book” sort of covers. At least her back is turned, showin’ some intrigue.
The last one in the series involves time travel. Because that’s how supernatural ghost-exorcising powers evolve. Duh. But no phone booths. And it works out the way it needs to in order to be a teenager romance without a vampire involved.
So in the fourth book in the series Suze tries out a plot line that was later somewhat co-opted by American Horror Story and lets some previously murdered teenagers attempt to get their revenge on their still deranged killer. This is also the book where the main story arc kicks off. And I read it last.