Publication Date: April 1, 2012
If you had a second chance at love, would you do it all over again?
Amy has enough to deal with for one lifetime. A superstitious Chinese mother. A best friend whose mood changes as dramatically as her hair colour. A reputation for being strange. The last thing she needs is to be haunted by someone only she can see.
Logan is a ghost from the Eighties. He could be dangerous. He's certainly annoying.
He might also be Amy's dream boy.
I think the best way to sum up Shirley Marr's Preloved is to say, whatever you are expecting? It isn't that. Not exactly, anyway. I read tons of reviews that try to explain. Marr says it herself when she describes it as "more a bad romance, less of a love story. And it's more abnormal than paranormal," but still, I went in thinking I knew what it would be. I was wrong, and I was blown away. I tore open my manila mailer, seated myself on the couch, and started reading. I sort of grunted incoherently at my husband as he thrust a glass of tea and a sandwich in my hand somewhere around dinner time, only to finally surface hours later to a quietly sleeping house.
I went in expecting a book that would extol the awesomeness of the 80s -- The Cure, Labyrinth, Princess Bride, Rainbows on everything. And they were all there; but so was the Challenger, Chernobyl and the fall of the Berlin Wall. I expected a little gratuitous nostalgia or the 80s used as an "exotic" backdrop (Hah! Now I know why my mom would get twitchy when we talked about how long ago the 60s were!) Marr was able to display the 80s in all their fab-glam glory while still showing that everyday people were living out their lives -- just as they are today.
I went in expecting a love story. And, boy does it deliver! Only, it's not of the teen romance variety (yep, there's a bit of bad romance there). Instead, it is about familial love. Amy and her mother have hands down one of the best mother/daughter relationships I have ever read. Marr helps you feel everything between them: the push and pull, the frustration, the suffocating clingyness, and the all-encompassing, ever-abiding love.
It was interesting as an American to explore the evolution of slang and trends not only between the 1980s and now, but also America and Australia. I think most Americans would, unlike Amy, still recognize and use the word "spaz" (my little brother calls me this on a regular basis), but I had no clue what was going on with this Mr. Matey thing until I YouTubed it. (We had Mr. Bubble; just as creepy but at least no talking of taking off clothes!) I also completely love the way Marr incorporated Chinese culture. I was fascinated by all the different superstitions, traditions and rituals. It made my day when I found out that ALL of them are true, told straight to Marr from her mother.
I also think it is incredible that in amongst all the 80s camp and ghostly shenanigans, Marr was able to write a wonderfully compelling and relatable story about a young girl coming of age and coming to terms with who those around her really are, and what they mean to her. It will be worth the extra work to get my own copy.
Did they have eating disorders, teen suicide and mean girls back in the 1980s?
Of course they did, I told myself. It's the nostalgia old people have that makes them see the past with rose-coloured glasses. When I have grandchildren, I'll probably look back and think this was the best day of my life. p 39
4 of 5 Stars
This review also appears on Goodreads; my review copy was part of the Preloved Book Tour 2012 hosted by Flannery of The Readventurer.