Author: Paige McKenzie & Alyssa B. Sheinmel
Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal, Horror, Contemporary
Rating: 4 Stars (4.5)
Based on the wildly popular YouTube channel, The Haunting of Sunshine Girl has been described as “ Gilmore Girls meets Paranormal Activity for the new media age.” YA fans new and old will learn the secrets behind Sunshine—the adorkable girl living in a haunted house—a story that is much bigger, and runs much deeper, than even the most devoted viewer can imagine…
WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW
I’ve been waiting to get my hands on this book since it was first announced. Let’s be clear—I’ve maybe watched every single episode of the Haunting of Sunshine Girl web series since its inception. I know. I’m an adult, it’s not really scary, but it’s something I can’t help but enjoy as a paranormal fan. If anything, my prior predisposition for the story of Sunshine made me both cautious and excited for the first book in the series. Excited, because I wanted to re-live the adventure of Season One in text form (and okay, I’ll admit it, I desperately wanted Nolan to make an appearance—he’s one of my favorite characters). Cautious, because I was terribly worried that I wouldn’t like the book. I didn’t know if Paige McKenzie could write, and I’ve never read anything by Alyssa B. Sheinmel. I was terrified that the YA-geared voice of the narrative would be irritating and ruin the story I enjoyed so much.
Luckily, that wasn’t so.
First off, let’s cover the well, cover. It’s gorgeous, and it’s great to see Paige herself on the cover (aka Sunshine)—but to be honest, the cover, as pretty as it is, has nothing to do with the story. Not once does Sunshine wear a beautiful white dress, put on heels, or fall sideways through a room.
Technically speaking, the book was decently written. There were a number of errors in the copy I received—mostly formatting errors, missing spaces, missing commas and misspelled words—but given that my copy was an ARC from NetGalley, that’s to be expected. I can only hope the final copy of the book will have the aforementioned issues resolved. As many errors as there were (and there were many) they weren’t too distracting for the most part and only cause a few stumbles along the way.
As one might expect, the book did a pretty decent job of sticking to the source material (the web show). There were some deviations from the original story, but if you’re a die-hard fan of the original, I don’t think you’ll find this one too far off. The changes were made mostly to the origin stories of Nolan and Victoria and the method in how Anna died—and honestly, I think the changes were for the better; the story seemed a little more cohesive overall.
As for the characters, they stuck true to form. Victoria was wonderfully creepy and a little off-kilter. Nolan was charming and geeky and the most adorable way and Sunshine was her usual quirky fun-loving self. The humor in this book was spot-on and goofy in a lovable sort of way. It made the narrative charming and engaging, and fun to read along with.
The relationship between Sunshine and her mother especially was filled with humor and quirky quips, and it really shone through how much the two characters got along—but of course, my favorite duo were Sunshine and Nolan. I don’t want to spoil too much, but I will say this: if you enjoyed Sunshine and Nolan in the web series, you’re going to love them in the book. Their moments together were by far the most endearing and interesting moments for me, and I may have squealed with glee a few times.
Not all was puppies and rainbows however—and this is why I’m giving this book a four star rating. The book wasn’t that creepy or scary. That being said, I am an adult obsessed with the horror and haunting genres, and I’ve previously watched the entirety of the web show—so the fact that I didn’t find the story scary, creepy, or surprising… well, it’s to be expected.
More so than that, I wish more depth had been presented to some of the characters. Sunshine was, of course, the forefront of the story, but things were a little hazy when it came to Nolan and Victoria. The way they came into the story, the strange little clues about their personalities… it was a little too obvious. A little too manufactured. Even had I not watched the web series, I wouldn’t have been in the least bit surprised that Victoria was going to end up having something to do with the haunting. She was purposefully gothic to the point of being a bit of a cliché. Nolan was a little too charming, a little too eager to believe Sunshine and help. He kind of fell into her lap from the very beginning of the story, and no one ever questioned it—and that’s admitting a lot coming from a die-hard Nolan groupie like myself.
Overall, I did really enjoy the book. I think it was well written despite the errors I ran into, the narrative was engaging and easy to follow, the story was interesting, and I loved the characters. I think the book was perfectly voiced for the YA genre, and I think sunshine’s quirky humor was charming. I’d have no problem handing this book over to my 11-year-old—it was clean for the most part minus a few moments of graphicness (blood, the intentional cutting of flesh), and I’m glad I read it. I’d be happy to recommend it to any middle-grade or YA readers who enjoy spooky ghost stories. I’m excited to see this series expand further.