When Liv Bloom lands an art scholarship at Wickham Hall, it’s her ticket out of the foster system. Liv isn’t sure what to make of the school’s weird traditions and rituals, but she couldn’t be happier. For the first time ever, she has her own studio, her own supply of paints. Everything she could want.Then she meets Malcolm Astor, a legacy student, a fellow artist, and the one person who’s ever been able to melt her defenses. Liv’s only friend at Wickham, fellow scholarship kid Gabe Nichols, warns her not to get involved, but life is finally going Liv’s way, and all she wants to do is enjoy the ride.But Liv’s bliss is doomed. Weeks after arriving, she is viciously murdered and, in death, she discovers that she’s the latest victim of a dark conspiracy that has claimed many lives. Cursed with the ability to see the many ghosts on Wickham’s campus, Gabe is now Liv’s only link to the world of the living. To Malcolm.Together, Liv, Gabe, and Malcolm fight to expose the terrible truth that haunts the halls of Wickham. But Liv must fight alone to come to grips with the ultimate star-crossed love.
Thank you to Pinoy Book Tours for organizing the tour and to Soho Teen and Edelweiss for granting me a review copy. This in no way affected my views of the novel.
Holy cow, was that great or was that great? Yeah I know, I got you there. Because there are too many reasons why you need to read LIV, FOREVER, I will narrow it down to eight (that IS narrowed down already) so you can read for yourself what you’ve been missing on.
1. Boarding school. What is with boarding schools and their inherent appeal in young adult novels? I personally think it’s just a great set-up full of independence plus the absence of the parental units is the perfect recipe for all hi-jinks to ensue. Boarding schools are isolated and with this, authors bank on anything happening inside being kept inside. Whether it’s something paranormal or spy training, boarding schools are just the breeding ground for secrets. And secrets LIV, FOREVER got. Juicy secrets it got. But secrets aside, Wickham Hall, like all boarding schools, have its traditions, rituals and pranks. The impressive architecture, the rigorous curriculum, the dances and the secret society. Which brings me to point #2.
2. Secret society/conspiracy. Oh good lawd, don’t let me hyperventilate and not finish this post. SECRET. SOCIETY. Yes, conspiracies. Enough said. Seriously? Enough said.
3. Murders. Liv was murdered. A whole lot more were murdered before her. No justice served. My ears smile with giddiness when there are murders in young adult. It’s just so intriguing and interesting and it’s just an auto-buy topic for me.
4. Ghosts. What comes with murders? Ghosts! Well, in fiction at least. Liv’s spirit is trapped in Wickham and so are all the other ghosts’ spirits. Moreover, I appreciate how LIV, FOREVER highlighted each ghost with a short bit on how they died. This made the reader closer to these ghosts and made them empathize with them. In turn, this invested the reader into getting answers to these questions: Who are they? Why were they murdered? Who’s behind all these killings? These questions lead me to point #5.
5. Mystery. To answer these questions, the ghost of Liv, her friend Gabe who can hear and see ghosts and Malcolm, the boy Liv likes, team up to uncover who’s been killing off girls at Wickham. Maybe it’s the girl who grew up with Nancy Drew to read in me but YOU GUYS. The mystery will definitely keep you going as it was engaging and definitely enraptured me all throughout.
6. Characters. Amy Talkington absolutely knows how to write characters you will love and root for. Our protagonist, Olivia Bloom aka Liv, was so relatable and passionate and normal that you can’t help but immediately like her. Then we get to her thoughts and emotions and her art and all bets are off. It’s like Amy knew me and picked up bits of me and my ideologies and made a character out of it. I especially love characters I relate to and who think the same as me because I feel like I know them already. And that was the case with Liv. (And she also loves the Romantic poets such as Keats maybe just as much as I do and sigh, that earned her brownie points. And her saying that even though she likes the Romantic poems, she never really did know and believe in love. I kinda agree on that too.)
Then we have Malcolm. Fine, Malcolm can sound a bit pretentious because who can recite poems? WHO recites poems? I know for sure poem-reciting boys do not exist only in fiction because I know a few so I still believe that Malcolm Astor can be real. He first got me and Liv with his imperfect teeth. Then his smile. And his hidden mischievousness and playfulness. Him being an art dork as much as Liv. Making Liv a playlist. Touring Liv all over the school and doing adventures with her in the short time they spent. Him reciting Bright Star by John Keats just about ended me. And Liv saying it’s not as romantic as it sounds made me even heart these two characters more.
Lastly, we have Gabe and he just plays the perfect eccentric mediator. His conspiracy theories bordered on funny and he just brought the right amount of relief from all the heaviness of the murders. In retrospect, the characters might have been stock characters except for Liv but it didn’t take away from my enjoyment of the book. The murder mystery kept me captivated and reading page after page.
7. Star-crossed romance. If love between a ghost and a living human won’t rank in your list of bittersweet love stories you love to hate and hate to love, what is wrong with you? One of my favorite *ultimate* divides = life. How can you be together when the one you love is dead? Fair warning, LIV, FOREVER features quite the insta-love but do not let it stop you from reading it and indulging in what else it can offer. Just let it go and don’t mind it as much so you can fully enjoy the novel. And although I knew what was going to happen, it still broke my heart. WHY IS THE UNIVERSE TRYING TO HURT ME? The universe in here being Amy Talkington.
8. Art, music and literature. Lastly and one that really got me fawning over this book is the numerous references to art, music and literature. Liv and Malcolm are self-confessed art dorks and they are great artists too. Liv’s unique way of talking and seeing things (referencing paintings and artworks when describing landscape, scenery and people), even though I don’t know most of the references (shows how un-cultured I am), was impressive. Then Malcolm’s playlist which provided a soundtrack to when he toured Liv at Wickham Hall. It’s like Amy Talkington initially wrote a script with its soundtrack and turned it into a novel. Then as I said previously, LIV, FOREVER has featured and referenced some poets and authors. Oh my.
LIV, FOREVER is a tightly plotted paranormal boarding school murder mystery with a bittersweet romance to boot. Amy Talkington’s debut novel does not feel like a debut and her talent and deftness as a screenwriter definitely transcended into this book. With great characters you will root for and a mystery you will bite into and never let go until you get to the bottom of it, LIV, FOREVER is a definite must-read for fans of young adult spooky boarding school stories with heart.