The Secret Life of Sparrow Delaney

sparrowdelaneyBy Suzanne Harper [LibrarythingAmazon]

All Sparrow wants is to live a normal life. That’s why her mother, grandmother, and six older sisters, all of whom are psychics, don’t know that Sparrow has been talking to ghosts since she was five years old. That’s why her classmates at her new school, including her friend Fiona and her cute-but-surly history partner Jack, don’t know that she lives in Lily Dale, a town so full of mediums it’s been nicknamed “Spookyville.” And that’s why she’s determined not to help Luke, the dreamy teenaged ghost who’s been haunting her, put his unfinished business to rest.

Unfortunately for Sparrow, Luke doesn’t give up very easily. Even more unfortunately, Jack insists on doing their joint history project on Spookyville. But it’s not until she discovers a connection between Luke and Jack that Sparrow realizes she may just have to give up her dreams of a normal life – and give in to her destiny.

When I was about five years old, I stole a pack of gum from the bodega around the corner. My motivation was simple: I wanted the gum and my mom wouldn’t pay for it. That evening, a friend of my mother’s came over to our house, and I offered her a piece of gum. My mother asked where I’d gotten it, and, finding myself trapped, I confessed all. She took the gum away and made me apologize to the owner of the bodega, and I never shoplifted again. In fact, I still feel a little ashamed when I think of that incident.

The point of this little autobiographical anecdote is that five year olds are not particularly good at keeping secrets. And I only had to keep my secret from my mom. Sparrow manages to hide not only the fact that she is the most powerful medium in her family (she can see, hear, sense, and smell ghosts, while the rest of her family can only do one of the four), but that she has been protected by three spirit guides nearly all her life. From, I might add, extremely nosy sisters and an even nosier grandmother. So my suspension of disbelief was stretched pretty thin by the book’s premise.

Furthermore, call me a stickler, but I’m not really down with lying – particularly long-term, systematic lying to one’s entire family about something deeply important. Sparrow lost a lot of my sympathy for that, and more when I realized what her refusal to talk to all the ghosts who come to her meant. See, in the context of the book, ghosts come to mediums because they need help. They have unfinished business, usually involving letting loved ones know that they’re safe and happy, or, occasionally, something more exciting, like where they left the winning lotto ticket. All they need to do is pass that message on so that they can proceed to the next stage of their afterlife, but it’s hard to find a medium who can perceive them, and for every ghost a Spookyville medium manages to contact, it seems, there’s another half-dozen only Sparrow can see. Sparrow, however, refuses to help them, no matter what tears and recriminations they throw her way. On a certain level it’s understandable, since it’s a physical strain to her to be around so many ghosts, and hey, she has to have time to sleep. At the same time, though, she comes off as extremely selfish and callous.

There were also strange factual issues. For example, when Sparrow recalls her first time seeing a ghost, at the aforementioned age of five, she mentions having a bottle, but most kids are off of the bottle by age two. There are exceptions, of course, but a bottle at five goes straight past “exception” and all the way into “major dental problems.” Sparrow also often used bizarrely old-fashioned turns of phrase, like “I should have liked to be normal” (to express “I would have liked to be normal,” not “it would have been more appropriate if I had liked to be normal”), which seem strange for a girl from modern-day New York State. It does bear mentioning, however, that I read an advance copy of the book, and small issues like that may have been fixed by the time the book hit print.

All that said, the book has its good points. I liked Jack and Luke (even if they did seem rather interchangeable), and I enjoyed the wacky minor supporting characters who inhabit Spookyville. I also thought that Sparrow’s feelings towards her absentee father were handled well, and I liked that that particular mystery was not resolved by the end of the book. And Sparrow’s spirit guides were extremely likeable, especially the tough-as-nails Professor Trimble (think Harry Potter’s Professor McGonagall, but dead).

The Secret Life of Sparrow Delaney gets three cupcakes. All in all Sparrow feels like she belongs more to the Meg Cabot and Ann Brashares side of the spectrum of Young Adult Lit than fantasy proper; it’s teen chick lit with fantasy elements, as opposed to fantasy with a dash of romance and teen angst. If that’s what you’re looking for in your reading material, give Sparrow a shot; if not, you might want to move on to something more strictly in the genre mindset.


    One Response to “The Secret Life of Sparrow Delaney”

    1. Katherine says:

      I read this book and couldn’t stop turning the pages! I loved it and if you are looking for a nice romance and some laughs, then read this book!

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