Spooks to the Rescue
“An Empty Swing”
by Nick Hanson, 2017
A sick psychopath violates and murders children. A vengeful spirit massacres a family in a gory bloodbath. Par for the course in an occult thriller aimed at adults.
But the rest of this book, following a kid psychic, his troubled girlfriend, and a ghost playing pranks, reads like Young Adult (i.e., teen) novel. Is this a bad thing? Parents of young readers might say yes.
Contrariwise, some adult readers might find the book a tad light. Still, others might find that “An Empty Swing” hits exactly the right balance. That I leave for each reader to decide.
The characters come off as likable and realistic, given that the book is about ghosts and psychics. Alice, the ghost of a fourteen-year-old, says things like, “I still think you are the catalyst that set this off” or “It is relevant to my interests.” Not impossible for a fourteen-year-old's vocabulary, but she's unusually mature. Her actions and pranks, however, come off like a nine-year-old.
Actually, those nine-year-old pranks are some of the funniest bits. Like when Alice's ghost visits Luis in the classroom and plays tricks on the students and teacher or a later scene in the theater. Or when she says, “I’m the ghost, not you! I know about this sort of thing!”
The action picks up at the halfway point with multiple murderers, both spectral and mundane, revealed. The scenes depicting the sexual abuse of children might be too intense for some readers. Myself, I had a bigger problem accepting that a ghost can have repressed memories. The premise of the book is that the memory of their death was so horrible that they're unable to “move on”... but they don't actually remember the event.
Still, if you can handle the adult vocabulary of some of the children and the assumption that ghosts can repress memories, you'll enjoy this fast-paced tale of the supernatural and a clever ending with plenty of action.