The hallways are empty, the school day long over, the din of lockers and youthful laughter have dissolved into silence. It's as if the very walls are waiting. And then through the intercom a song starts to crackle, the soundtrack of a forgotten life. And the band begins to sing: "Lovely Maggie falls for Johnny, a boy no one else can see. Heartthrob Johnny, '50s bad boy, trapped for eternity. Lonely boy and lonely girl, unsolved mystery. Maggie and Johnny, only high school sweethearts, because Johnny can't ever leave. Do wop, Do wop . . . "
In 1958, a rumble goes down outside the brand-new high school in Honeyville, Texas. Chaos ensues, a life is lost, and Johnny Kinross disappears. But in 2010, someone finds him. Orphaned at the age of 10, 17-year-old Maggie O'Bannon finally finds a permanent home with her elderly aunt in a small Texas town. Working part-time as a school janitor, she becomes enmeshed in a 50-year-old tragedy where nothing is as it seems and the boy of her dreams might vanish when the bell rings.
This volatile and mismatched romance is doomed from its start, as Maggie struggles to hold on to yet another person she is destined to lose. Secret love and hushed affection are threatened by outside forces, resulting in a desperate race to keep a secret no one would understand. Deeply romantic, funny, and tender, Slow Dance in Purgatory captures the heartache of a love story where a happy ending might be decades too late.
©2012 Amy Harmon (P)2014 Tantor
A Sad, Sweet & Sassy YA Ghost Story
Slow Dance in Purgatory by Amy Harmon, read by Emily Woo Zeller, published by Tantor Audio (2014) / Length: 7 hrs 27 min
This is Book #1 of 2 in the "Purgatory" duology. Both books are available on audio.
She isn't actually a Ghost Whisper, since the ghosts she sees are mostly just echoes that don't interact with her. But she has been able to see them since she was young.
I like most everything about this one, and only wish we had gotten more of the wonderful interactions between Johnny & Maggie.
Maggie O'Bannon: A not-too-tough former foster kid who loves to dance. She doesn't really fit in, but finally has a support system and doesn't want to lose it.
Johnny Kinross: He was a bad boy in the typical 50's sense of the word, tuff. He was never a jerk or abuser. He tried to take good care of his mother & little brother. He has matured even more after spending 50 years fading in & out and never able to go anywhere. He tries to do right by Maggie.
Maggie & Johnny: I really like this relationship despite its seemingly impossible nature. They spend time together, talk, have fun, and support each other.
I love Gus, the elderly Janitor Maggie works with.
This takes place in a High School in the small town of Honeyville, Texas. There are flashbacks to the same town in the '50s. What I noticed when listening was a good sense of the colors and sounds of the time.
As for the paranormal aspect, as I said above, most ghosts are just echoes. But several incidents are related in which a ghost (besides Johnny, who isn't sure what he is) actually interacts with someone.
The beginning is an extremely poignant exploration of Johnny's condition - stuck, often alone, never a part of things. After that we get a flashback to how he ended up that way. The book uses quite a few flashbacks and people telling stories about what happened to explore his life before, as well as those of few other characters (who are now elderly or dead).
The ending is a kind of cliffhanger.
HIGHLIGHTS / CAUTIONS:
--The Chapter Headings - which are all 1950's song titles
--Maggie & Johnny make their own drive-in theater
--My favorite quote:
“Why would you even try to stay away?!” Maggie interrupted, as impassioned as he. “What did I do?”
“It’s not what YOU did! It’s what I’m doing to you!” Johnny gaped at her, incredulous.
“Maggie – if this were 1958, and none of this had ever happened, and I was just a guy and you were my girl…..I would hold on to you and never let you go,” Johnny implored huskily, “But it isn’t 1958…and I am not just a guy, in love with his girl.”
I COULD HAVE DONE WITHOUT: Moderate swearing & innuendo / Shad's crush. This relationship has enough troubles, they don't need a third wheel. / The bullying teacher (whose father was apparently also a bullying teacher). Anyone who constantly taunts a dyslexic student and sets them up to fail should be fired.
OTHER CAUTIONS: Johnny's mother is said to have been having an affair with the (married) mayor. / He made out with a teacher in order to pass her class. / Gus' daughter (Shad's mother) is a drug addicted prostitute whose behavior humiliates them.
Character voices differentiated = Yes / Opposite sex voices acceptable = Yes, I think that Gus' voice especially suits him. And Shad's voice is teenage creaky without being annoying / Accents = This book takes place in Texas, but there aren't really any accents / Phrasing, Pacing & Pronunciation = Good / Emoting = Good / Speed = listened on 1.25, my usual, and it was a tiny touch slow.
I love Harmon's writing but didn't know what to think of this read at first. I quickly got swept away and lost in this beautiful slow dance. Totally thought I knew the ending but alas I was wrong and now a book two! I can't wait!!!
"Not just for Young Adults"
Emotionally charged and stirring till the end.
If time travel was ever going to be real, these two star-crossed lovers deserved to know how.
The touching love story of Johnny and Maggie made me cry on several occasions. How could it not?
The characters are well written and the emotional ups and downs of these teenagers separated by death spill from the pages in tsunami waves, leaving the reader emotionally drained.
I cannot simply label this as YA, because it is more than that. A touching story with an ending that leaves you in no doubt as to which book you will be reading next - the sequel of course.
This is a MUST READ.
Too many. Maggie and Johnny would do anything for each other despite the abyss that separates them.
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