These days, I am not the biggest YA fan, but I do love a bit of the supernatural, an element which jumped out to me from Ascenders: High School for the Recently Departed by C.L. Gaber.
Ascenders tells the story of Walker Callaghan, a 17-year-old dead girl who finds herself in a place between heaven and hell: The Academy. The Academy is a strange in-between stage of death where not much is different from the living world – except there are no risks. Children/teenagers find themselves here so they can have the chance to develop an adult brain before “going up”. Naturally, Walker finds herself in love with The Academy’s local bad boy who, literally, brings her to another realm – the one thing forbidden by The Academy.
Despite my earlier reservations about reading a YA novel, Ascenders sucked me in from the very beginning. The book immediately introduces the supernatural and begins with a somewhat sad undertone. This aspect of sorrow continues throughout the entire story and I am not ashamed to admit that I shed some tears. However, at the same time, this story is not necessarily a sad one and the reader’s spirit is lifted (couldn’t resist the bad pun) by the wonderfully written and witty characters.
There is not one character in this book that I did not like but, naturally, it was the main characters, Walker and bad boy Daniel, who tugged on my heart. I loved how witty and smart Walker was, while the absolute tenderness of Daniel was something that is hard to come by. I really felt like I experienced them grow as the book progressed. Although their love story is inevitable, it is not overbearing for older readers.
The writing style of Ascenders was superb. Gaber did very well in writing to appeal to teenagers; the many references to pop culture is a testament to that. The reader also sees smatterings of bullying and the sweet feeling of falling in love for the first time. There were many life lessons placed within the storyline which are important for a younger reader to learn, but also resonate well with adults: we block out what we don’t want to see; there is no black and white when it comes to good and bad – these are things us older generation often need reminding of.
Gaber also does a wonderful job in building suspense. It was hard for me to take a break from reading when with each page I was eager to find out what happened next. I even found I was holding my breath at times! The fact that this story was very unique added to the element of surprise.
Overall, I absolutely loved this book. As someone who is highly imaginative, this suited me down to the ground. All in all, you know it is a good book when you find yourself dreaming about it. Luckily for me, there is a part two. Stay tuned!
A free copy of this book was given to me in exchange for an honest review.
Thank you for such a beautiful, thoughtful and gorgeously written review. I’m grateful and honored. CL Gaber