Thanks to NetGalley and Wednesday Books for the digital ARC of Amanda Quain’s Ghosted, which will be published Tuesday, July 25!
Amanda Quain’s Ghosted, a YA retelling of Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey, far exceeded my expectations. Quain uses her source material creatively but isn’t beholden to it, instead finding an emotional core that (I must admit) I found missing from Austen’s novel.
Hattie Tilney attends Northanger Abbey, a ritzy private boarding school her family can afford because her mother, Dr. Tilney, is the headmaster. Despite the fact that her school is notorious for being haunted, Hattie is entirely anti-paranormal, convinced that those who hope to find a ghost are deluding themselves.
Then, along comes Kit Morland, a handsome, quirky new student who is decidedly pro-paranormal. Normally, Hattie would avoid Kit completely, but her mother has assigned Hattie to be his ambassador, so she resigns herself to a few tours, some friendly chats, and that’s it.
As the layers peel back on Hattie’s story, it becomes clear that this is really a novel about grief and healing. Immediately before her family moved to Northanger Abbey, her beloved father died of a cancer that killed him quickly. Hattie decided that her new school offered a chance at a fresh start, so she rejected the study of history, of hauntings, of ghosts that had so captivated her and her father. She makes new friends, does what she needs to do to be successful and moderately popular, and blends into the background.
Kit immediately gets under Hattie’s defenses, and when they’re assigned to work together for their journalism class on a semester-long project focused on the ghosts of Northanger Abbey, Hattie realizes that everything she had suppressed is coming to the surface.
Quain crafts brilliant, complex characters. Hattie, whose first-person narration drives the novel, is vivid and empathetic and sad. It’s clear that, while she looks out for her younger brother, Liam, and tolerates her older sister, Freddie, she’s not really connected with her family, particularly her mother, who she most often calls Dr. Tilney. As Hattie works through her college applications (she’s a senior), it becomes clear that she’s also not connected to the college path she’s committed to. Even her friends see only her surface. It’s only Kit who begins to see who Hattie really is and could be.
I absolutely loved this novel, which so beautifully delves into both Hattie’s healing but also into the inevitably difficult transitions that all teenagers at this age must undertake and, of course, into the relationship that grows between Hattie and Kit. Watching her again feel her feelings is an incredible journey.
I'm Jen Moyers, co-host of the Unabridged Podcast and an English teacher.