Awkward teen falls in love with a troubled ghost

Carol Wright

By A Contributor

The mystery of a ghost girl whose watch ticks backwards, the perks and pains of a son and father vacationing together and wishes for a family to be happily reunited will delight readers who enjoy the paranormal in Edward Hogan’s first novel for young adults, “Daylight Saving.”

Through this novel I was introduced to Hogan, who had previously received mixed reviews, though mainly positive, for his two adult novels, “Blackmoor” and “The Hunger Trace.”

Settings for both of these novels are rather bleak. I am fortunate because I didn’t have to dwell in the gloom of a Derbyshire pit village like in “Blackmoor” and in the symbolic tragedy befallen the characters in another dismally-marked Derbyshire in “The Hunger Trace.”

However, as a child, Hogan was inspired by Derbyshire and said that it was a “fantastic place to grow up because the slightly spooky landscape really stirs the imagination.”

A similar kind of spookiness exists in “Daylight Saving,” which, for the most part, kept me grounded, though perhaps not always contentedly.

I could feel Daniel Lever’s discomfort at having to be dragged along on joyless vacations with his dad, Rick, who faces problems of his own. Daniel’s mother has walked out on Rick, leaving him with the idea that spending time with his son will bring the two of them closer together.

Rick tends to drink heavily and conceals his true emotions by over doing it in the joke (yuk-yuk) department and finding other tourists to pal around with while trying to include Daniel in all the festivities.

Daniel would love for everyone to be a family again. But now, at this stupid, ridiculous and supposedly grand sports holiday complex, the biggest in Europe, known as Leisure World, he feels totally marooned and out of place. He is a perfect example of an outsider who occasionally gets bullied by some snotty, brats.

The number one drawback for Daniel is that he doesn’t really like sports at all.

He’s also kind of sensitive about his appearance, his weight in particular. Worst of all, Daniel seems more like an adult than the boy as he tries to stand up to his dad, cover for him and pretend to enjoy the trip.

Once Daniel discovers the mysterious girl swimming in a lake, he decides maybe this ho-hum place isn’t so bad after all. However, as quickly as the girl appears to him, she suddenly disappears.

Eventually they meet, grow fond of each other and make time to talk. Then Daniel notices something strange happening with her watch. It’s ticking backwards.

Daniel starts to care about this ghostly girl whom he later learns is Lexi Cocker, a rape victim who was murdered two years ago. Her body was never found and her parents continue to mourn her disappearance. They are sure she is dead.

There’s one curious puzzle after another and Daniel gets swept up in the mystery. For a while, everything is wonderful and strange to Daniel.

He’s really falling for this ghost girl. Then Daniel notices the many wounds, bruises and scars on her face and body. They seem to worsen as each day and night pass. He soon discovers the exact same wounds forming on his body. Lexi pleads with him to let go and warns him to stay away because she cares what might happen to him. The ghost girl wants peace and closure. She also wants her family to know what happened to her and where her remains are located.

The situation is a question of time. Maybe Daniel can lessen the trauma and prevent the whole thing from happening before summer’s end. Can he turn back the clock, or rather, in the present, alter it somehow to save Lexi?

If not, history will repeat itself and she’ll be forced to endure over and over the awful punishment.

Despite all the sadness and chaos, there are moments when Daniel and Lexi have fun playing pranks on tourists at the nearby mall.

Many times both are invisible when they carry out the pranks or when they help each other escape danger. This serves as comic relief and gives readers, like myself, a reason to smile or laugh at their youthful antics.

I especially admired the author’s descriptive writing. The hallucinations experienced by Daniel, whether in the water or within the wooded area of the sports complex are prominent, quite vivid and, yes, spooky and beautiful as well.

Sometimes, I found myself slightly confused by certain incidents or episodes that I suppose might have made more sense to other readers, if they, too, took their time to really study the story.

“Daylight Saving” definitely takes a reader’s imagination to capture the…excuse the expression…spirit of the deeper meaning behind Hogan’s writing.

It’s true that many of the passages alone are intriguing but the author also encourages readers to ask themselves how they would approach a similar situation or tackle a problem.

Time is central and critical. How many times have we wished we could have changed the past? Sometimes we don’t have any control over time.

Do we have a choice and is it ever too late?

This novel doesn’t just entertain; it serves another purpose as Hogan stresses in a passage from his novel, “Time is a circle. Yes, it’s powerful. Yes, it’s dangerous. But when it comes around again, you can damn well change it.”

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