One of the cool things about being a writer, even a writer who is still starting out, is that you get to meet so many talented people. And because you are a fellow writer, sometimes you get a chance to get a sneak peek at their next creative effort. I’ve had the opportunity in the past to talk to you about Maven, and about Nemesis by Starla Huchton, but this time, I’ve got a special preview of a new work by Lauren Harris, her novella “Exorcising Aaron Nguyen”.
So what is “Exorcising Aaron Nguyen”? You could say it is the story of unrequited teen love, supernatural vengeance, and the tragic demise of fancy coffee drinks in the searing North Carolina sun. “Exorcising Aaron Nguyen” is the first of The Millroad Academy Exorcists series, a series of stories set in and around Millroad Catholic Academy, a boarding school in “middle-of-nowhere North Carolina”. Our story centers around young Georgia Collins a somewhat overweight student at Millroad Academy who is obsessed with three things: her classmate Hiroki Satou, a really good cup of coffee, and writing a story to prove that the school newspaper is something more than just a gossip rag, not necessarily in that order.
When the body of math wiz Aaron Nguyen shows up on the school’s soccer field with his head smashed in, everyone agreed that it was a tragedy. To the police, it was a crime. But when Aaron’s ghost started causing trouble around the academy, Hiroki Satou became a little more involved than the other students in the school. This is because Hiroki is gifted, or cursed, with spectral sight. Put simply, Hiroki can see and hear ghosts, and with Aaron’s unquiet spirit prowling the halls of the Academy, he cannot rest until Aaron does. Hiroki enlists Georgia into helping him figure out how to put the ghost to rest, before someone else gets killed.
While this is a story of young adults, I wouldn’t call it a YA book. You see, the characters in the story talk too much like real young adults. That is to say that they cuss. A lot. Much too much to be suitable for impressionable minds like, for instance, teenagers. Yes, that was sarcasm. OK, parents and the school board might object to the foul language used in the book, but anyone with enough maturity to have talked to a real, live, fifteen-year-old will recognize that they use much worse language every day and will get on with reading the story.
Much like the dialog, the characters seem to be spot on for teenagers without being blatant stereotypes. Georgia has weight issues, and while it is a sore spot, her entire life doesn’t revolve around her weight. The head of the Chess Club is a geek, but he has his own brand of loyalty and his own need for friendship. And he’s not a pushover. It is a Catholic school, but not everyone in the school is Catholic. While Lauren doesn’t supply complete backstories for each character (it is only novella length after all), you can tell from the reading that there is more there about each of them. They each have their own stories.
I found “Exorcising Aaron Nguyen” to be an entertaining paranormal mystery and an interesting look at friendship and the connections that we make to fulfill that inner need for belonging. In the span of a relatively short story, Lauren examines several different emotional connections, from Rachel’s unbidden care for Georgia, and Georgia’s discomfort and acceptance of the relationship, to Georgia’s strange relationship to Hiroki, and the sometimes caustic rivalry between Aaron and his best friend. Each relationship is distinctly different and says something new about the nature of friendship and the bonds that connect each of us. This story is entertaining on multiple levels, and I would encourage readers of this review to pick up a copy of the story and check it out for yourselves.
If you’d like to get a copy of Exorcising Aaron Nguyen you can find it on the Kindle marketplace for only $2.99, and you can use one of Amazon’s Kindle readers even if you don’t have a Kindle device. Or, you can buy it in your favorite format from Smashwords for the same low price.