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The Haunting of Sunshine Girl (The Haunting of Sunshine Girl, #1), by Paige McKenzie and Alyssa Sheinmel

Updated on August 16, 2016

Before Reading

This looks like an interesting book. I am a sucker for a good supernatural book and this actually doesn't look too much like another damn teen romance.

Upon doing a little digging, I find that this book is based on a YouTube series. I will have to be strong not to watch the series and possibly spoil the book.

After Reading

After two readings, I'm still not entirely certain if this is a really book or not. I liked it a lot. It gave me a severe book hangover, something that doesn't happen to me that strongly that frequently (one of the most pronounced book hangovers I've ever had was with the "Gallagher Girls" series). For anyone who is unfamiliar with the term "book hangover," it is that feeling you get when you put the book down and feel like you're still living in the world of the book. So, from that perspective, this book was very effective indeed.

"The Haunting of Sunshine Girl" is the story of a high school junior named Sunshine. Her mother, Katherine "Kat" Griffith, was a pediatric nurse and, 16 years earlier, she was walking through the emergency room at her hospital in Austin when she found a newborn baby girl. The moment she picked the baby up, she felt destined to be that baby's mother. Kat somehow managed to adopt the baby (those details are glossed over), whom she named Sunshine.

As "The Haunting of Sunshine Girl" opens, Sunshine and her mother have just moved from Austin, Texas, to Ridgemont, Washington. Kat has gotten a job as the head nurse for the new neonatal unit for the hospital in the town which hardly seems large enough to need a dedicated neonatal unit. Labor and delivery, certainly, and a nursery for neonates, of course. But I get the impression that there are enough preterm and at-risk full-term babies in the one-horse town of Ridgemont to warrant an entire unit for them. I'm also not entirely sure if a pediatric nurse is really trained to be the head nurse of a neonatal department. Pediatrics and neonatology are two different specialties.

Their first night in their new house, Sunshine hears footsteps in the upstairs hallway. The noise sounds like someone skipping, so she comes to the conclusion that the footsteps are those of a little girl. Sunshine is a photographer, who got a Nikon film camera for her birthday, so as the hauntings continue, she takes pictures. She is a junior at Ridgemont High School (and I am old enough that I kept expecting to see Jeff Spicoli and Mr. Hand whenever the name of the school was mentioned) where she is taking a Visual Arts class. She hopes to be able to develop her photographs herself, but she discovers, to her dismay, that Ridgemont High lacks a darkroom, so she mails the photos to her best friend to have them developed at a photo shop she trusts back in Austin. Her whole Visual Arts class is weird. Her teacher, Ms Wilde, doesn't actually teach, and so the class ends up being more like arts and crafts time at a really bad summer camp than a class for actual artists. Ms. Wilde also has a strange obsession with death that makes Sunshine even more nervous.

As the book progresses, Sunshine becomes increasingly certain (and then absolutely certain) that her house is haunted by a benevolent spirit and a malevolent spirit. We watch as her relationship with her mother falls apart and also as she builds a new relationship with a classmate from her Visual Arts class, Nolan Foster, who believes her when she says that her house is haunted.

Most of the book is written in the first person and the present tense, which is kind of nice for the novelty aspect. One section is written in the past tense, which I found kind of jarring and it took a while to parse out that, rather than seeing something as it was occurring, we were being given a flashback. That was an odd stylistic choice for that section. I am uncertain why McKenzie, Sheinmel, and Hagan chose to insert that one flashback. Throughout we also have really creepy italicized sections written in the first person from the perspective of someone who is not Sunshine but is, instead, watching her.

Eventually, Sunshine finds someone who can explain to her exactly what is going on in her home and with her, in particular, and there is a major confrontation between Sunshine and the malevolent spirit that opens whatever is going to come next in Sunshine's life (which will be published in "The Sacrifice of Sunshine Girl," due out in October 2015).

The inclusion of the word "Girl" in the title is kind of odd. It is necessary to tie it to the YouTube series, but never once, that I can recall, does anyone use the term "Sunshine Girl" in the text of the book. I expected it to be a nickname that her mother used for her or something of that nature.

Now, let's talk about Austin. Sunshine says in several places that she never needed a warm shirt or saw snow in Austin. She also references the "crowds" in downtown Austin. The winter low temperature in Austin, on average, is around 40 degrees Fahrenheit. That's not bone-chilling cold, but it's certainly cold enough to warrant a long-sleeved thermal shirt with a jacket. I'm also not sure where Sunshine was in February of 2004 (when she should have been five years old if the book is set last August through New Year's, which would be 2014), because Austin had 1.6 inches of snow on February 14, 2004. They also had measurable amounts of snow in 2003, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011, and 2014, that I can find. Somehow, she managed to miss all of that. Additionally, I have been to Austin a fair few times (I live in San Antonio), but I don't think I have ever seen what I would describe as "crowds" in the downtown area, except for the one time my now-ex and I went to the South by Southwest Festival, which is held in March. I have to admit that I don't hang around in the Sixth Street area, which is the "entertainment district" (in Texas, read "entertainment" as "bars"), but I get the impression that it can be pretty crowded there. I looked at the biographies of the authors and found that none of them are from Texas at all. The next book is going to be set, at least in part, in Texas, and I kind of am afraid that I will have to read it through my fingers. I half-expect that the book will be set in the Hill Country and it will look like Monument Valley.


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