Title: Rebel Spirits
Author: Lois Ruby (website)
Pub. Date: June 1, 2013
Source: e-ARC via netgalley (Thank you, Scholastic!!)
Summary: Lori Chase doesn’t know what to think about ghosts. She may have seen a few in the past, but those were just childish imaginings…right? Only now that she is living in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, spirits seem to be on everyone’s mind. The town is obsessed with its bloody Civil War history, and the old inn that Lori’s parents run is supposedly haunted by the souls of dead soldiers.
Then Lori meets one such soldier–the devastatingly handsome Nathaniel Pierce. Nathaniel’s soul cannot rest, and he desperately needs Lori’s help. Because Nathaniel was not killed in the famous battle. He was murdered. Lori begins to investigate the age-old mystery, stumbling upon shocking clues and secrets.
At the same time, she can’t help falling for Nathaniel, just as he is falling for her.
Genre: YA, Mystery
Sixteen-year old (almost seventeen, thank you very much) Lori Chase has just made the move from a swanky hotel in Philadelphia to history-obsessed Gettsyburg, PA. Her brother is stationed in Ghana and her parents thought it would be fun to renovate a Bed & Breakfast. Once July rolls around, business is booming: spectators and reenactors alike flock to the town for the anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg. For three days 1863 is alive and well: the townsfolk are decked out in giant hoop-skirts and Union blues and replica rifles send the scent of gunpowder into the air.
Lori is less than enthused with her new home – until the night she captures a ghost on film. A Skype session with her brother must have been all-too tempting for the young soldier, for an image appeared on the screen. Lori wasn’t alone in her bedroom. After a few more encounters with the boy, Lori learns his name is Nathaniel Pierce. He grew up in Punxsutawney and enlisted as a member of the 93rd Pennsylvania regiment when he was nineteen. He shocks Lori by sharing with her the true nature of his death: it wasn’t the battle that killed him. He’s convinced he was murdered and needs her help solving the mystery. Unfortunately, he only has three days – once July 3 comes, the reenactors will pack their things and Nathaniel will depart as well.
Okay, guys. It’s SO not a secret that the Civil War holds a special place in my heart. I’ve gone to Gettysburg multiple times – yay for only living a few hours away! – so right off the bat this book and I got along well. Allow me to fly my bias flag: if a book deals with any of the battles (particularly Gettysburg), you can bet I’ll be reading it. It’s one of my things. A YA dealing with a Civil War soldier and his suspicious death? SIGN ME UP!
When I read, I’m constantly doing research or googling certain figures/events/paintings/what have you. In Rebel Spirits a great deal of the novel was devoted to the Kalunga Line, something I had never heard of before! Basically, it comes from certain religions in the Congo and refers to a ‘line’ stretching across the Atlantic Ocean that was the path between the world of the living and that of the dead. I’m all about stuff like this and absolutely loved its inclusion in the book.
As for the characters, there were quite a few, but they were fun and well-developed. Lori’s parents are ever present and that was a refreshing change from the usual absentee parenting typically found in YA. Nathaniel was a sweetheart, but I just couldn’t get into the romance aspect. Over the course of three days the two only met a handful of times for a few minutes at most. Yet somehow they fell in love. Sorry, but no. It was cute when Lori tried to explain modern technology and I easily could have accepted a friendship, but more…? I’ll admit I delighted in Lori’s dad calling her out on her insta-love!
Any reader of historical fiction knows research can make or break a novel. There were a few things Nathaniel didn’t know about that would have existed during his day. Punxsutawney Phil/Groundhog Day as we know it didn’t officially begin until the 1880s, yet it’s origins go back to Celtic tribes and Germany’s Candlemas Day. I suppose that could be splitting hairs, since Groundhog Day wasn’t a part of American tradition until German settlers came over in the 1880s, but it’s certainly been around for quite some time. Anything thing unknown to Nathaniel was the word cahoots. Unfortunately, a quick google search shows this word first entered the English language in the 1820s – 40 years before Nathaniel’s death.
Apart from a few tiny issues, I had a lot of fun with Rebel Spirits. I’d say the mystery was more Middle Grade in nature – it’s pretty obvious from the start who the bad guys were – but I was able to overlook it and go with the story. If you enjoy Civil War settings, or want a fun story to entertain you for an afternoon, pick up a copy of Rebel Spirits.