Review (plus): “The Haunting of Sunshine Girl” by Paige McKenzie
I have a love/hate relationship with books that I know are going to be a series. You make me love you, but then you make me wait. This new series is a page turner from beginning to end, and Paige McKenzie brilliantly hooks the reader with Sunshine. The protagonist, duly named Sunshine, is a teenager who is uprooted from her life in Texas before she is to start her junior year in high school. The stage is set from the beginning of the novel by a voice telling the reader of Sunshine’s 16th birthday party and the moment when she blows out the candles by the slight chill she receives and the racing of her heart—momentarily there, but so slight that even Sunshine questions if she felt it.
The reader soon discovers the house Sunshine moved into is haunted by a little girl and the reenactment of her horrendous death. The reader won’t be able to turn the pages fast enough as the death is told in minute details. It was bone chilling. Sunshine has to figure out who has caused the little girls demise, as well as the personality change in her once best friend and mother. Sunshine must learn who she is in order to survive the hauntings of her home and save herself, and those she loves, from going past the light into the dark side.
For the classroom:
One of the key elements of the Common Core Curriculum is for the 9th and 10th grade students to learn the skills necessary for writing a research paper. This paper doesn’t have to be a novel, but one that introduces them to valuable collegiate skills. In The Haunting of Sunshine Girl, she meets Nolan Foster, who eagerly agrees to help Sunshine with her problem. His grandfather had started paranormal research years ago and Nolan has been working on it since his grandfather’s passing. He uses Google repeatedly throughout the book. It is fun to watch Sunshine go to Google, enter one short word into the search engine and quit. This is aptly true of mainstream youth. They enter one word; go to Wikipedia and their search stops. Common Core wants the student to go beyond the one word search. It wants them to: limit their topic, synthesize multiple sources, and most importantly, draw a conclusion based on their research. There are a plethora of search engines available, but as instructors we need to teach our students about the different engines, how to do an advanced search, how to use secondary and primary sources—and how to tell the difference between the two! Sunshine has some “Ah-ha” moments when she is told how in depth Nolan went to discover Sunshine’s true identity.
In the store:
Paranormal stories? Hauntings in the neighborhood? Local folklore of the past? This is a truly wonderful display to have with multiple books for the YA crowd. They love this stuff—and so do many adults. Sunshine’s old farmhouse has a death within the walls and the spirits cannot leave. We are surrounded by spirits, hauntings, and the unexplained, but we often ignore what is right in front of us. There was a walking ghost tour in my hometown and it was phenomenal. I had no idea some of the downtown buildings had gargoyles on them and I had lived there for 30 plus years.
Showcase some local talent with an open microphone can also be a wonderful way to let others share and not think they are C-R-A-Z-Y! Sunshine felt so alone and the history on her house was obsolete. Once she could talk with someone of the same mind, she felt more at ease and could conquer her fears.
The Haunting of Sunshine Girl: Book One by Paige McKenzie (Weinstein Books | 9781602862722 | March 24, 2015)