Series: The Mediator #1
Publication Date: October 1, 2004
Genre: *Young Adult, Ghost, Paranormal, Romance
Publisher: Pan Macmillan
Being a mediator doesn't exactly make Susannah Simon your typical sixteen-year-old. Her job is to ease the path for the unhappy dead to their final resting place. Not all ghouls want to be guided, but Suze is inclined to kick some serious ghost butt if she has to. Now she's moved to California with her new stepfamily and is starting out at a brand-new school. From her first day, her mediator skills are tested to the max when Suze finds herself the target of the murderous spirit of ex-class beauty, Heather. At least she's sharing her new bedroom with Jesse, who just happens to be the hottest ghost in history. Suze is totally warm for his form and is determined to win the heart of the sexiest spirit in town. But can this girl get her ghost?
The beginning of this month began with some amazing news: Meg Cabot’s Mediator series, about a girl who can
punch talk to ghosts, was revealed to have been optioned by Netflix.
Fun fact: I completely missed that announcement and began re-reading Love You To Death (called Shadowland in the United States) completely independently and unaware of the news until right now when I googled the series in order to find a cover that was of decent quality.
I did not scream, but I did rejoice.
We all know that Meg Cabot is an amazing writer, but oftentimes I look back on the Mediator series and lament the fact that things didn’t quite seem in place to give the series the massive massive audience it deserved. Originally the first few books were published under a pen name (Jenny Carroll, which was also used for some of the 1-800 WHERE-R-U books) a few years before the massive paranormal YA boom sparked by Twilight. Attempts were made, as with many other older paranormal YA novels, to gain a new audience through bind-up reprints but I’m not sure how successful they were.
(I know I was disappointed by the American edition, which featured the then popular sad-girl-in-a-prom-dress standing in the woods. For a book about a leather jacket-wearing girl who lives on the beach. Yeah.)
It’s all very much a shame as Love You To Death is still very enjoyable after all these years – both since publication and my last reread. Because the book is older than its current target audience a few references will no doubt not land with new teen readers (and also there are no cellphones), but I was very impressed with how well it aged.
That’s because despite its short word count (by today’s YA standards 60k is rather short), all the characters leap off the page fully-realized and vividly rendered. Suze’s blunt but friendly narration deftly paints the world around her, both the good and the bad, and her no-nonsense attitude is both refreshing and compelling. Although she spends much of the book as a fish out of water, the way the locals gravitate to and/or conflict with her and her interactions with them are solid and make sense without the story bending the world to fit the protagonist’s importance.
Suze’s supporting cast is great, too. Whether it’s the handsome ghost she doesn’t want haunting her bedroom (Jesse can still easily show many a YA love interest how to really play the part), a resigned but concerned aging mediator in the school principal, an entire stepfamily, or an excitable school journalist, each leaps off the page to be likeable, or at least funny and interesting. The one exception is Adam, who is very much the Xander character in the group, and even if I didn’t already strongly disliked Xander-like characters his “jokes” about dating and Suze falling for him etc. are very off-putting.
Overall though, Love You To Death remains the same funny, fast-paced, and enjoyable read that I remember it being the previous half dozen times I read it. Despite being nearly twenty years old it holds up extremely well and would no doubt be easily accessible to any new reader as it would the die-hard fans of classic Meg Cabot. I’m looking forward to finishing the rest of the series (including the rather recent adult sequel Remembrance) and more news about the Netflix adaptation.
You should, too.