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Book Review

Book Cover

If I Have to be Haunted (Hardback)


Author: Miranda Sun
Publisher: Magpie Books
364 pages
RRP: £14.99
ISBN: 978 0 00 861240 5
Publication Date: 15 August 2023

HarperCollins Publishers releases If I Have to be Haunted, the debut novel by Miranda Sun. Chinese American Cara Tang is just trying to get through high school, but that is the least of her problems. She is a Ghost Speaker, which means she can not only see the ghosts of dead people and prospectively help them find their way but, within a month of Halloween when the veil between the living and the dead is at its thinnest, actually interact with them on more of a corporeal level. Her mother wants her to suppress these abilities and lead a normal life; for the selfish reason of not getting on with her own Ghost Speaker mother – whose spectre, incidentally, resides in the attic and converses with her granddaughter. When Cara comes across the body of Zach Coleson – the blond, blue-eyed, privileged and deeply annoying swimming star of the school – she makes the ultimate mistake of reacting to his ghost. Much as she hates his very existence, Cara feels she can’t refuse him help. When it is discovered Zach was bitten by a white snake of fable, which can take human form, they learn that there is a slim chance Zach can return to life. Thereafter, nothing will remain the same as they are obliged to enter the highly dangerous liminal world. Cara needs to find her own way in life and fate has a way of presenting a path, but it is the right one?

As you might expect from the opening of my synopsis, there is very much a Buffy the Vampire Slayer vibe in attendance in this book – particularly the empowered young woman preparing for college. There are a number of other influences too, including horror, fairy stories, dark fantasy, and more contemporary children’s fantasy tales. A loose affiliation with the Harry Potter franchise can’t be denied, and there is certainly a connection to the popular wizard-type fantasy books of the 1980s and 1990s. This definitely spans many borrowed situations which Miranda Sun makes her own. Two consecutive dangers to life include a cannibal who wants to eat Cara and a part of the landscape that becomes a monster. Some of the situations seem based in young children’s fiction, whilst others are more adult without being too bloodthirsty. In all, I believe the book fits comfortably into what is normally termed Teen Fiction. The liminal world seems to work like a trial, in the same manner that much of Del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth was an allegory for a girl’s coming of age.

Whichever references you many read into the tale, you can’t deny it’s an impressive debut from Miranda Sun.


Ty Power

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