Which is not the greatest sign of a book with staying power.
So I skipped the rest of the re-read and moved on. Happily, in the first few pages of Unbroken, Morris provides enough information to catch any new readers (or rusty old ones) up. As the premise of this book builds off of the resolution of the first one, spoilers about Ruined will follow.
Last year, life-long New Yorker Rebecca Brown spent a few months living with some relatives in the Garden District of New Orleans. While there, she discovered the following things:
1. Ghosts not only exist, but they are pretty much everywhere.
2. Anyone who dies by murder comes back as a ghost.
2. Every ghost has some sort of task that must be accomplished before moving on to whatever comes next.
(Is it just me, or have the ghosts in this world drawn a particularly short straw? FIRST, THEY GET MURDERED. THEN, THEY'RE STUCK HERE UNTIL THEY PERFORM A TASK? Shouldn't getting murdered give them a free pass or whatever? I know that life (and apparently death) isn't fair and all that, but JEEZ. Anyway. Moving on.)
Now Rebecca is headed back to New Orleans for spring break—her father has to go down for business—but this time she's bringing her best friend, Ling. So, yay! She'll get to spend time with hottie Anton, who she's been carrying on with via text message since her last adventure. AND DOUBLE YAY!! She doesn't have to enroll back into Temple Mead Academy, which is inhabited by the prissiest, meanest, snobbiest girls on the planet. She's on vacation, so the week will be all about exploring the city with her bestie, smooching Anton (hopefully), listening to great music, and eating great food.
But oh noes! There's another ghost who needs help! AND DOUBLE OH NOES!! Psycho arsonist Toby Sutton (<--from the last book) knows that she's back in town, and he's determined to ENACT HIS REVENGE!
Just like Ruined (or, you know, what I remember of it), Unbroken reads like part-paranormal-mystery-romance, part travelogue. In addition to loads of details about New Orleans (past and present) and lots of information about the various communities and cultures and subcultures that populate the city, there's some discussion about gentrification and a bit of conversation about preserving history versus quality of life. While much of it definitely reads like the author had some travel guides open at all times as she wrote, for the most part, the information is integrated smoothly and in a non-infodumpy manner.
In terms of the mechanics of the fantasy elements, Morris is pretty blasé about introducing new rules about how ghosts work (possible difficulty in plotting? oh, actually, haven't I mentioned that ghosts CAN/CAN'T do that? let me just do that now), and the prose gets occasionally repetitive when explaining said rules.
Rebecca is the sort of unfortunate heroine who could save herself a lot of trouble if she would either: stop dithering about whether or not to ask people (her father, her best friend) for help, and/or interrupting people when they are trying to give her vital information. While both of those things get old (in this book specifically, but also in general), neither are entirely outside of the realm of believability... EXCEPT for one specific situation, which was so ridiculous that I felt the need to set the book down and get all ranty to Josh for a few minutes*. Character-wise, I would totally support chucking Rebecca and Anton (who for the most part is super milquetoast and kind of a jerk) under the bus and giving Best Friend Ling and New Dude Phil their own series, because they were TOTALLY AWESOME and easily my favorite thing about the book.
Despite the murder and the violence, Rebecca's age and the spooky elements, Unbroken actually reads quite a bit younger—and more innocently—than you'd expect: so much so that those of you who're always looking for more middle-grade mysteries for Nancy Drew fans might want to give it a read. (Unless I'm forgetting something hugely problematic. Am I?)
*Oh, you want to know what it was? Well, okay, but it's a SPOILER. Toby Sutton the Psycho Arsonist tries to run Rebecca over, but misses her and hits her father instead (he escapes with a sprained ankle) and even though she and Ling are BOTH capable of IDing Toby, neither of them even considers, you know, reporting him. (Which allows Toby to be a part of the big dramatic showdown at the end, but makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. He's not involved in the Ghostly Hijinks, so there's no need to keep it a secret. It's the sort of plot hole that is so frustrating that, years later, it may well be the only thing I remember about the book.)
Book source: Review copy via Netgalley.