Ripley Patton – Ghost Hand

ripleypatton-ghosthandOlivia Black just discovered that her ghost hand, a rare birth defect, can do more than light up a room. It can reach into people and pull things out. Things from the darkest depths of the human psyche never meant to exist in this world.

Olivia can pickpocket the soul.

But she can’t control her ability, or the strange items it extracts, and the only thing between Olivia and the men bent on taking the power of her hand is a boy she barely knows and doesn’t trust.

When I reviewed the anthology Light Touch Paper, Stand Clear last November, one of the authors of the stories I particularly liked, got in touch to ask whether I’d like to review her forthcoming YA novel. Of course I agreed, because I was interested to see what Patton could do in long form and happily it was just as strong, if not stronger, than Mary Had A Unicorn. Ghost Hand was a riveting read, which hit some of my buttons as far as niggles go, but so few that it didn’t really register during my reading of the book.

Ghost Hand is set in our world in what seems to be the present time, only in this world people can be born with PSS, Psyche Sans Soma, a birth defect that replaces some part of the anatomy with energy, making it glow in a somewhat ghostly manner. Our protagonist Olivia has PSS of the hand. At the beginning of the book Olivia discovers that her hand can do strange things, which is the start of a sequence of events that sweeps along both Olivia and the reader in a breathless race against those who would do her harm. I loved Olivia. She’s smart, prickly, snarky, stubborn, and quite loveable. Her main focus during the book is figuring out what’s up with her PSS hand and keeping herself and those she loves safe. As a result there isn’t much room for her emotional development beyond coming to terms with her hand’s unique ability to pull objects out of people. Then again, Olivia seems remarkably well-adjusted for a teen living with a rare birth disorder who has lost her dad and whose relationship with her mother is far from easy. I liked that she always keeps an innate distrust for Marcus, despite being powerfully attracted to him. She knows things don’t add up and she doesn’t let hormones cloud her judgement. She also calls Marcus out on it, repeatedly, and gets the answers she needs.

Marcus is the male lead and when the book opened up and Olivia first encounters him, I immediately thought ‘Oh no, not insta-love!’ Luckily though, while the attraction is clear and powerful, Olivia’s distrust and Marcus’ own secretive nature keep it from going down that path. Of the two, Marcus’ emotional development is far more pronounced. He has to move beyond his own distrust and secrets to let not just Olivia, but his friends as well, get really close. He has to confront some of his own demons over the course of the novel and he doesn’t always do so very gracefully. Beyond these two, there are Olivia’s best friend Emma, her class-mate Passion, and Marcus’ friends, Yale, Nose, and Jason, who all play significant roles in the story. While the story doesn’t really feature the absentee parental units so common in YA, it is somewhat chilling that almost all adults are cast as either villains or well-meaning, but bumbling.

Plot-wise, Ghost Hand is strong, but very much a first novel in a series. While the direct crisis of this book is resolved, the larger arcing problem of the KAMFers, those campaigning to pass dehumanizing laws against people with PSS, is still unsolved. The only thing which struck me something that could be counted as a weakness is the power of Olivia’s hand; or rather the effects of the items said hand pilfers. Some of these are a little deus-ex-machina and while there is a good explanation for it, when it first becomes clear what is happening, it feels a little convenient. Still, the applications of Olivia’s hand and its possibilities are cool and it will be interesting to see where Patton takes them in the next book. The pace of the book is break-neck, but Patton gives both her protagonists and the reader time to breathe at just the right moment, before ratcheting up the pace once again.

Ghost Hand is a fabulous book, which I read cover to cover in a day. With an interesting world, great characters, a break-neck pace, and a smooth writing style it makes for a compelling reading experience. I loved the time I spent with Olivia and Marcus and I can’t wait to read the second book and see where they go next. Ghost Hand comes highly recommended for fans of paranormal YA.

This book was provided for review by the author.


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