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The Secret Life of Sparrow Delaney


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About the Author

Suzanne Harper grew up in Texas and lives in New York City.


Harper's (Boitano's Edge) polished debut novel couches an unexpectedly poignant meditation on loss in a quick-moving plot about ghosts and the spiritual mediums who communicate with them. Fifteen-year-old Sparrow Delaney is the seventh daughter of a seventh daughter and therefore highly gifted in the psychic arts. The only problem: she wants nothing to do with her talent. She trains herself to ignore the ghosts that compete for her attention, at least in the presence of her family and fellow citizens of Lily Dale, N.Y., a (real-life) town that attracts tourists with its famous spiritualists and Spirit meetings. But how can Sparrow shake off the teenage ghost who refuses to stop haunting her unless she helps him, and what does he have to do with the cute boy in the new school she's transferred to in hopes of escaping the Lily Dale weirdness? A steady stream of wit refreshes familiar-seeming story elements. Harper serves up pitch-perfect dialogue from high school athletes and teachers; squabbling mediums; and such clever flourishes as the grandfatherly baker, the 19th-century young Indian gentleman and the exacting female professor who serve as Sparrow's spirit guides. Surprise turns add to the plot's pleasures, but what makes this book stand out most is Harper's attention to the pockets of sorrow in her characters' histories, each of them handled with care. For all of the imagination the author displays in inventing a spirit world, she shows equal skill in probing the nuances of tender emotions, too. Ages 12-up. (July) Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.

Gr 7-10-Sparrow Delaney, 15, lives in Lily Dale, NY, a town populated with mediums who generate income by "serving Spirit," or hosting seances. Her mother, grandmother, and six sisters are all professional channelers of the other realm. Sparrow has had the ability to see, smell, hear, and communicate with ghosts since she was five, but, much to her family's chagrin, she denies these talents. Embarrassed by her town, dubbed "Spookyville" by outsiders, the girl attends school a few miles away. When her history-project partner, moody and handsome Jack, wants to research Lily Dale, Sparrow hides her knowledge of the place. Then she begins to be haunted by a teenage ghost named Luke, who happens to be Jack's missing brother. Luke refuses to be ignored and insists on using Sparrow to send messages to the living. On the first anniversary of his disappearance, his family decides to hold a televised seance in Lily Dale. Despite her refusal to embrace her "gift," Sparrow reveals Luke's messages, resulting in varied emotions from his parents and the townspeople. Readers will enjoy this combination of mystery, adventure, and romance, with enticing twists and turns. Harper seems to have studied Spiritualism and the real town of Lily Dale rather well, creating an accurate atmosphere. The ending, although somewhat sappy, is touching and effective.-Marie C. Hansen, New York Public Library Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.

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