Book Review: Ghoster by Jason Arnopp
I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
Series: Stand Alone
Publisher: Orbit (October 22, 2019)
Length: 496 pages
Like many readers who came to this novel, I am a huge fan of Jason Arnopp’s The Last Days of Jack Sparks so needless to say I could hardly wait to get my hands on Ghoster. Some of the early mixed reviews had me nervous though, so I went into it with my expectations in check. In some ways, I’m glad I did, because the book did not turn out the way I thought at all, and that was both a good and bad thing.
At the center of Ghoster is protagonist Kate Collins, a somewhat self-doubting paramedic who has an addiction to social media. Recently, she has made a conscious effort to put some distance between herself and her phone, and around the same time, she also started going out with a man named Scott Palmer. Sweet, charming, and handsome, he seemed like the perfect guy, except for the fact he hardly talks about himself and can be quite guarded about his life. Still, when Scott asks her to move in after just a short period of dating, Kate is ecstatic and agrees immediately, quitting her job, packing up all her belongings, and driving straight to Brighton where her new life awaited her.
But upon her arrival, she is surprised to find an empty house. No furniture, no electricity, no boyfriend. Scott also hasn’t been answering her calls or her texts. Soon, she discovers the reason why, as he appeared to have left behind his battered but still working cell phone, the only sign of him left in the entire place. Refusing to believe she has been ghosted, Kate convinces herself that something must have happened to Scott, and decides to unlock his phone and start digging into his life to find some answers. What she discovers, however, is devastating. Everything she thought she knew about the man she loved was a lie. Worse, the shock accompanying these new revelations is compounded by the strange atmosphere Kate has been getting from Scott’s apartment.
With all the lies and half-truths being flung around social media these days, one of the main takeaway messages from Ghoster is, just how do you know if a person is really who they say they are online? This book definitely a cautionary tale against the overuse of electronic devices and the danger of being too connected. However, I also think it serves as a great guide as to what not to do when you’re in a relationship! It’s simple, really—just do the opposite of everything Kate does. When a guy refuses to tell you important details about himself or talk about his family, warning signs should be blaring in your head. Also, out of all the movies in the world, he names as his favorite the one that just happens to be your favorite as well? And you’re really naive enough to buy that? Don’t even get me started about the part where she throws her whole life, her brains, and all her self-respect out the window the moment Scott asks her to move in. And when she finds the place empty, she just decides to settle in anyway like everything is normal? Any average person would have drawn the logical conclusion that they’ve been dumped, and move on. But oh no, not Kate. She continues to pine and obsess even though every sign is telling her to pull her head out of her ass and get out of that place.
I suppose that was the main issue I had with the novel. Kate is a horrible protagonist, one I couldn’t sympathize with no matter how hard I tried because everything she did seemed at odds with what common sense would dictate. There’s really no nice way to say this, so what the heck: she’s an airhead. What else would you call a person who actively creates problems for herself by making staggeringly dumb choices, and worse, never learning from those lessons and repeating the same mistakes? On some level, I understood that Arnopp wanted to make an example of her, but I didn’t like how everything about her personality was so off-putting. After all, Jack Sparks was unlikeable in the author’s last novel, but the character was at least funny, interesting, and displayed some semblance of intelligence.
But now on to the good parts, to the elements I really enjoyed about Ghoster, and I have to say most of them have to do with the actual story itself. Overall, the plot presents a good mystery, if you can ignore all the protagonist’s questionable choices to make it possible. There’s a thrill, for example, every time Kate discovered some new clue or disturbing little tidbit in Scott’s phone which would lead to more puzzles and secrets. And there were plenty of scenes that were genuinely creepy, especially those ghostly nighttime moments at Scott’s apartment, as well as the chilling twists revealed towards the end.
Overall, if only I could have gotten over my intense dislike of the protagonist, I think I could have found Ghoster immensely enjoyable. Of course, there were other minor issues, like some disjointed pacing and several situations that strained my ability to suspend my disbelief or were just downright bizarre, but Kate presented the biggest struggle. Still, in deciding how to rate this book, I chose to believe everything about her character was by design and ultimately went with my gut instinct based on how much I liked the novel. And by that measure, I found it quite entertaining. This book was not nearly as awesome as I wanted it to be, but I had fun with it nonetheless, and I will be looking forward to more by Jason Arnopp.