Back in 2010 I reviewed a novel called Fury by a new author named Shirley Marr (see: “Contemporary fury and historical shadows”). I liked Fury a great deal, so I was very eager to see what Marr would come up with next. Well, it’s finally out — Preloved. Mixing Chinese superstitions, a teenaged ghost and 1980s references, Marr has given us another enjoyable read.
Amy is a bit of an outsider. Her best friend is desired by every boy at her high school, so Amy is usually passed over. And she has a reputation for being odd. Her home life is also less than ideal. Her parents are divorced and she lives with her mother, who seems unable to hug her. Her Chinese mother also has a superstitious streak a mile long and is constantly dispensing such useful advice as: “never tweeze the hairs off the tops of your toes, or you will see ghosts.”
One day, while dressed as Princess Buttercup from The Princess Bride, Amy finds an old locket. Opening the locket releases a ghost. Logan is a teenage boy who died in the 1980s, but doesn’t realise he’s dead and has no memory of what happened to him. It’s now up to Amy to help him… so that she can be rid of him.
It’s an interesting novel with many threads weaving through it. There’s the mystery of what happened to Logan. There’s a paranormal romance angle with the concept of reincarnation being explored. Then there’s a nice look at the cultural aspects of growing up Chinese-Australian. On top of all that, there are the joys and heartaches of teenage life in high school.
And then there are all the 1980s references. Amy’s mother has shown her lots of classic 80s films, which have become part of her pop-culture landscape. Her mother’s second-hand store is also a way into this past decade. Amy’s school has been doing 80s dress-up days leading up to their 80s themed formal. I was a teenager in the 1980s, so I loved all these references — the roaming pack of Jason Donovans is hilarious. But I do wonder at the relevance of all these references to modern day teenagers, who the book is aimed at. Will they even understand half the stuff that’s being alluded to?
Marr has created a wonderful set of characters you really come to feel for… even if you don’t always like all of them. I also love the way Marr has you doubting the existence of Logan. Is he really a ghost? Or just a product of Amy’s troubled imagination? Or maybe even a fox spirit? You’ll have to read the book to find out.
I really enjoyed Preloved. It’s very different from Fury, but that’s a good thing. I look forward to seeing what Shirley Marr comes up with next.
There is one negative thing I have to mention, and that is the editing. Typos happen, that is just part of publishing life. But there did seem to be a few too many in this book… often taking me out of the moment as I was reading. Hopefully these will be fixed up in future editions.
Catch ya later, George
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