a review by Evie Kendal
Arise is the second novel in the Hereafter young adult paranormal romance series by Tara Hudson and focuses on two star-crossed lovers from opposite sides of a war between the living and the dead. In the first novel of the series, Hereafter, protagonist Amelia Ashley finds her true love, Joshua Mayhew, a boy who cares nothing about her past – which is fortunate since Amelia’s past contains a violent death: her own. At the beginning of the novel the reader discovers Amelia is a ghost-like creature with no memory of her past life and no ability to influence the world around her. The following excerpt illustrates her situation well:
I was already dead, that much was certain. It had taken me awhile to accept the fact, perhaps years – time being a very uncertain thing in death. Years of wandering, confused and distracted by every sight and sound. Screaming at passersby, begging them to help me understand why I was so lost or even just to acknowledge my presence.
The nightmares were what made me finally see, and accept, the truth. … During them I would drown again. … And each time the nightmare ended, I would wake in a field. It was always daylight, and I was always surrounded by row upon row of headstones. A cemetery. Probably mine. I never waited around to find out. (Hereafter 3-4).
Describing her existence as “purgatory” and “a prison of one,” Amelia is unable to touch or communicate with anything. This situation changes, however, when Amelia sees Joshua drowning in the same river she drowned in many years ago. Without the ability to physically interact with him, and remaining invisible to him while he still lives, Amelia is forced to watch on as Joshua drowns. After he has crossed over, Joshua is able to see Amelia and somehow she is able to touch him. Using this new ability she helps rescue him, getting him out of the water where paramedics resuscitate him and take him to hospital. Days later Joshua returns to the scene to search for Amelia and she is shocked to discover he can still see her. Up until this point Amelia has been completely isolated and had no motivation to find out her own identity, however Joshua encourages her to start investigating who she was when she was alive. Being around Joshua also gives Amelia flashbacks to her former life and she starts being able to use her other senses, including smell and touch – the latter being a skill she and Joshua utilise extensively after they discover there is some sort of electrical attraction between them that when they touch gives them both a pleasant burning sensation (sexual connotations implied and intended!).
At this point in the narrative the Romeo and Juliet-esque plot gets complicated, as it turns out Amelia was “chosen” to be the companion of the malevolent soul-stealing ghost, Eli, who has been waiting for her to be “ready” to join him in his role. Eli poaches unclaimed souls and drags them into a hell of sorts under orders from some higher powers, and he intends Amelia to serve as his partner in this endeavour. Meanwhile it turns out that Joshua comes from a family of Seers, who, after a “triggering event” (such as his drowning) are able to see unclaimed souls. His grandmother, Ruth, believes these spirits are dangerous and evil and Joshua is expected to join her group of exorcists and banish Amelia’s spirit into the netherworld.
The second novel, Arise, takes place after the brief truce between Amelia and Ruth, which was negotiated toward the end of Hereafter for the purposes of dealing with Eli and saving Joshua’s sister, Jillian. This book continues investigating Amelia’s past and trying to learn more about her current status and whether she can be made alive again. Rituals are researched, alliances drawn, and more discoveries made about the many afterworlds souls can inhabit after death and about the nature of the wraiths, shadows and demons Amelia encountered in Eli’s realm from the previous book. Following her own triggering event, Jillian is now able to see Amelia too, which adds a lot of humour to the story, as she is not the easiest sister to get along with! This novel also shows Amelia being pursued by otherworldly creatures and her concern that her relationship with Joshua is putting him in danger. She gets quite depressed in certain places when she thinks of the differences complicating their relationship and fears Joshua is becoming alienated from his “normal” friends.
The characterisation of Joshua is my favourite element of this series, as he seems genuinely devoted to Amelia and committed to helping her discover her past and her supernatural powers. While some of his actions seem a little overbearing at times, he usually relies on solid negotiating skills to achieve his objectives and always encourages Amelia to be curious. He also doesn’t seem threatened by her strengths (ranging from expertise in differential equations to telekinesis and materialisation), but rather helps her develop these skills. He is also happy to explain new technologies (such as MP3 players and smartphones) to Amelia, who died before they were invented. My least favourite plot element concerns Amelia’s father, who died shortly after she did. This unnecessary “daddy issues” device is slightly irritating, and Amelia’s immediate assumption that his soul must be trapped in Eli’s realm seems to originate from nowhere.
Arise is a good novel, however it is necessary to read Hereafter in order to get a real feel for the story. Although background is provided, the emotional impact of the first book would not carry over for readers who only pick up the sequel, thus reducing the reader’s investment in the romantic plot. This series is targeted at a (predominantly female) young adult audience, however it is suitable for older readers as well.