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Seeing Things is, quite simply, the perfect ghost novel. There is a wonderful mix of well drawn and relatable humanity and spine tingling ghost encounters that made this an absolute joy to breeze through. That doesn't mean it's fluffy, however - there are some beautifully depicted family relationships here, flawed characters, and serious scares. There's also a completely novel twist on the idea of seeing ghosts, and how a person would interact with them. Add in some creepy urban legend material and you have, as I said, the perfect ghost novel.
Having read Taylor's collection, Little Paranoias, I felt confident I'd enjoy anything she wrote. Now I'm even more so.
Seeing things is one of the best, most unique ghost stories I've read in years, with spirits popping up in the most unexpected places, scares galore, and a teen protagonist who is both the center of the tale and the glue that binds it. With remarkable insights into the workings of a teenage mind and the quirky dynamic between kids and adults, Taylor shows remarkable finesse and a passion for the human spirit, living or dead, and you'll be doing yourself a favor when you pick up this fantastic book.
Last year, I was lucky enough to get access to an early copy of Little Paranoias, Sonora Taylor’s collection that came out in October. It’s no exaggeration to say that everything about it worked for me. From the poems to the flash fiction to the longer form stories, even the curation of the order was well done. How does this relate, you say? I was dying to find out what this author could do with a novel-length story.
Fast forward seven months, and I hold in my hand, Seeing Things, A Novel by Sonora Taylor. At 174 pages this is a fast read that grabs the reader by the shirt collar and yanks them toward the finish line. You want to put it down between chapters because the kids are hungry or you’ve got a zoom meeting for work, but you can’t. You’re essentially not allowed, not when the end of each brief chapter leaves you demanding to know what’s going to happen next.
We’re dropped into Abby’s coming-of-age journey from page one before anything horror-related is even hinted at. From there the reader discovers that she’s developing a bit of a new talent. She sees dead people. At first you might be thinking, okay, I’ve seen this movie, but Taylor adds a little spin here. The dead want nothing to do with Abby. They actively avoid her, running away and being outwardly rude about it if the opportunity arises. One of her first encounters results in a ghost literally giving her the finger as he walks away.
Now I’ve probably given you the impression this is a comedy, but that’s not it either. There are a few humorous moments, mostly courtesy of Abby. She can be a bit of a smart ass, but Taylor also writes her with humility, which keeps her from coming across arrogant. Instead she’s instilled with a sense of charm. If forced to pigeonhole this into a genre, I suppose I’d have to say it’s a supernatural mystery, but more importantly, it’s a Sonora Taylor story. The characters are all complex and imperfect, male and female alike, but the female protagonist is strong and well-rounded. The prose carries the reader along, never for a moment feeling dull or clunky. This book is short because there are no wasted words. The terrifying imagery is not present on every page, but this adds to the overall effectiveness when it does present itself.
I won’t talk in detail about my favorite element of this story. Actually, I can’t without spoilers, but I appreciate a book that makes me question how exactly I’d react given a certain situation. The book closed after 174 pages, but my brain continued rolling. This is the mark of a strong storyteller. Seeing Things is up for pre-order now. If you loved Little Paranoias, don’t miss this one. If you’ve never read Taylor before, this makes for a great jumping on point. I was given a copy by the author for review consideration.
Sonora Taylor does it again. Really, this is my first experience with Sonora's longer fiction having not done Without Condition yet. Simply put, this is a gorgeous novel. From Doug Puller's cover all the way through to the last page, absolutely beautiful story-telling.
Abby is growing up and Abby is seeing things. She realizes that blood is a part of becoming a woman, but the blood she is seeing is of a completely different nature. Abby can see the dead. Yes, I know, stop right there. For about 2 seconds I thought "I see dead people" ( The Sixth Sense ), but that was it. The story and the writing were so damn good that the similarity or comparison never crossed my mind again. Not once.
It all starts with a dead girl in a locker. Why is Abby the only one that can see the girl and the blood leading to the locker? But even more, why does the girl seem to be afraid of her? Why won't the ghost tell her what she wants?
So look, I want to give you more - I want to tell you so much more, but I have almost exhausted what I can talk about from the synopsis. It does say that Abby leaves for a summer stay at her Uncle's place on the water. So we leave the school and the fears and the nobody believing her and the haunted locker and go to the beach.
Of course at the beach the story gets much broader. There are more ghosts. There is an old island summer camp with a history of murder/suicide. What does this have to do with Abby? There definitely seems to be a rhyme and reason to these mysterious haunts.
Sonora pulls off an awe -inspiring trick of narrative with this book. There are 3 separate stories going on here much like the 3 separate islands right off the coast. The locker, the island camp's history, another piece involving her uncle and one of his students. They all feel completely unrelated and the story swells into a final crash that absolutely ties everything, EVERYTHING together. The final weaving of the 3 pieces was masterful.
This is a story of a girl growing up, familial bonds and inescapable pasts. Gorgeous, awe-inspiring, masterful. Sonora is one of my top active horror creators. Her work has not disappointed. Ever
Reviewed in the United States on February 14, 2021
Abby is a teenager with a gift, or perhaps a curse? She can see dead people but nobody believes her. Truth is, I probably wouldn’t either. Seeing Things is a perfectly paced tale about death, lies, secrets, murder, and so much more! Taylor manages to turn a ghost story into a mystery that keeps you guessing and thinking you know how it’s going to end, but still manages to surprise you with the conclusion. I loved the characters Abby and her semi-derelict uncle Keith. Their relationship was sweet and I loved how the tension between them felt palpable and definitely earned. The twists and turns the story takes made it difficult to put down and Taylor’s writing was excellent! She knows how to write characters and Abby was especially well-written. The way she adapts to see the dead and their smug reactions to her ability made me chuckle a bit, because honestly, I’d be irritable too if I was stuck in a sort of purgatory between life and death. I’ll most definitely be picking up more of Taylor’s work! They hype around this book was well-earned! I recommend Seeing Things to any fans of horror with a side of mystery.
This was my first experience with Taylor’s work. I had no idea what to expect going in and thoroughly enjoyed it. As creepy as it was at times, it was the family drama/dynamic that really clicked with me.
I loved this book! It was well-written, original, and believable. I've been looking for new (to me) writers to read, and this book was just what I needed. Abby was a believable main character, and the relationships she had with her family rang true. The story drew me in, and the writing kept me there. Highly recommended.
Sonora Taylor’s Seeing Things is every bit as good as her Without Condition, and I loved that book. She has a knack for taking well-used story elements like serial killers or seeing ghosts and turning them into something more.
Abby is thirteen years old and wants to visit her Uncle Keith and Aunt Sandra over her summer vacation. Keith plans to spend the summer renovating the old family homestead, and would be happy to have her help. Of course, things aren’t going entirely well these days. Sandra left Keith. Keith just lost his job as an English teacher. And as for Abby? Well, she just started seeing dead people. Like the girl in the locker at school, crushed into that small space, her eyes gouged out, blood running into the hallway. None of the ghosts she sees, however, have any interest in talking to her. Quite the opposite, in fact. One ghost even flips her the bird before running away. When she finally arrives to visit Keith, one of the first things she sees is the streams of blood running out and down from the house.
The book perfectly depicts the awkwardness of puberty and entering one’s teen years, and how this affects your relationships, especially with family members. Abby is none too happy when her parents virulently reject what she says she saw, but she learns quickly to not tell them anything. Her parents also argue about whether they should really let her go visit Keith with all that’s going on in his life. They opine that he shouldn’t be saddled with “babysitting” her, and her father keeps dismissing Keith as a lazy good-for-nothing. Abby’s understandably hurt, since she thought Uncle Keith liked her visits and didn’t see them as babysitting. When she visits him, there’s so much awkwardness around his lost job and all of the other subjects that seem to come up. It all strikes so true. It makes a great context for the abilities Abby has suddenly developed and has to come to terms with.
Abby of course starts noticing a handful of ghosts around this small town, and has some interesting interactions with both the living and the dead. Keith has found a part-time job at a bookstore, and Abby is frustrated it’ll eat into her time with him during her visit. This is a nice opportunity for us to meet a couple of new characters, and for Abby’s ability to come into play a bit.
The pacing is great. Things start a bit gradually, and this is never a high-octane read, but it’s still riveting. It’s a relatively short read, and like Without Condition, it goes to some unexpected places.
Urban legends, complex relationships, ghosts, genuine characters...What's not to love. I enjoyed this a lot and it's a unique take and not a repeat of anything I've read a hundred times or more. It's the authors writing style that manages to pull you in from the first page too. Exceptional