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What: Here Lies Olive by Kate Anderson

Who: North Star Editions

When: October 24th 2023

How: A copy of this novel was provided by Flux for review.

Growing up in the dark tourism capital of the United States, sixteen-year-old Olive should be comfortable with death. But ever since an allergic reaction almost sent her to the wrong side of the grass, she’s been terrified that there is no afterlife. And after the death of her surrogate grandmother, Olive has kept everyone at arm’s length because if there’s Nothing after we die, relationships and love can only end in sorrow. When she summons a spirit to answer her questions about death, Olive meets Jay, a hitchhiking ghost trapped in the woods behind the poorhouse where he died. Olive agrees to help Jay find his unmarked grave in exchange for answers about the other side and what comes next. Meanwhile, someone―or something―is targeting Olive’s classmates, and the longer Jay lingers, the more serious the attacks become. Blaming herself for having brought Jay back, Olive teams up with maybe-nemesis, maybe-crush Maren, ex-best friend Davis, and new girl Vanessa to free Jay’s spirit before he’s trapped as a malevolent shade and the attacks turn deadly. But in doing so, Olive must face her fear of death and risk losing another person she loves to the Nothing.

Here Lies Olive is a queer YA light horror novel that focuses a lot on grief and death, and also touches on things like the evils of 20th and early to mid-21st century “mental health care” and colonisation.

Olive died for five minutes, and all she saw when she was gone was what she calls the Nothing. There was nobody in the darkness, and all she felt was a sea of shadows and loneliness. Afterwards, she was determined to cut off everyone she loved, and wall herself off. But despite this, she ended up becoming friends with a woman from the local nursing home. And after she passes, Olive is determined to find out if the Nothing is what awaits everyone after they pass away.

So Olive ends up summoning a ghost so that she can ask them what exactly comes after death. But nothing goes right, and the ghost ends up being one who hasn’t passed on so has no idea what comes next after all. To help the ghost cross over, and therefore find out, Olive promises to help Jay find his unmarked grave in hopes he can give her a message once he passes on.

I really would have loved some more page time and development of Jay. He was a character with a lot of potential but I never felt like he was present enough to become a central character to the story. If the core group had spent more time with him I feel like readers would have really invested in Jay’s journey to crossing over, and the search for his unmarked grave. Instead, I felt like he was sidelined a lot, even though I had thought his story would be a large part of the book. And instead of caring about him and befriending him, Olive just got angry with Jay when bad stuff started happening and she assumed it was because of him.

Jay wasn’t the only thing lacking some development. I would have liked to see some more build up of the relationship between Olive and Maren because I think it could have been a really cute ship, but in the end I felt like it was a bit rushed, especially because Olive hadn’t even figured out she was gay until about two-thirds of the way through the book. It was still cute, don’t get me wrong, but I just would have liked it to be more fleshed out because the goth girl and the preppy girl is a cute ship!

On the other hand, I thought the conversational writing style was really engaging and reminded me of paranormal books from circa 2010, which have all but disappeared. This style makes it really easy to connect to the MC because it feels like they are having a chat with you personally. So I liked that a lot!

Another great thing was how fleshed out Davis, Olive’s best friend, was. He was very central to the story, and also had things going on in his life outside of what he was doing with Olive. His Navajo heritage was also central to his character, and I loved this. He was definitely not a cardboard cutout character who only served the main character.

Overall, I did enjoy Here Lies Olive. There were somethings that could have been improved and then I have a feeling I would have loved it. But as it was, I still liked it and it’s a perfect book for the spooky season – especially if you’re looking to dip your toes into the horror genre but don’t want to be keeping the lights on after you stop reading.

© 2023, Chiara @ Books for a Delicate Eternity. All rights reserved.

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Posted on: September 28, 2023 • By: Chiara

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