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Meg Cabot – The Mediator series, books 4-6: Darkest Hour, Haunted, & Twilight

July 16, 2016

Cabot, Meg - Darkest Hour - 400Cabot, Meg - Haunted - 400Cabot, Meg - Twilight - 400Re-reads. Darkest Hour, Haunted, and Twilight by Meg Cabot (2001, 2003, 2004)
The Mediator, Books 4-6

Read my review of book:
1. Shadowland
2. Ninth Key
3. Reunion

Length: 336, 288, 336 pages
Genre: Young Adult Paranormal Romance/Mystery

Originally Read: 23-25 January 2007
Re-read Started: 10 April 2016
Re-read Finished: 16 April 2016

Where did it come from? I got Shadowland from the library booksale, then the other five books in the series from a friend who I convinced to read them, but she didn’t want to wait for me to return the library’s copies of the latter books, so she bought and read them all but then gave them to me in a decluttering effort. Friends like that are great to have. :)
Why do I have it? Oooh, I have no idea why I picked it up in the first place. (Actually, I think it was because the sixth book in the series is called Twilight and it had come about the same time as that *other* Twilight and I heard a lot of buzz about one of them and I couldn’t remember about which and so I wanted to read them both. Ah, youth.) I decided to re-read them because Cabot had a new book in the series coming out, over a decade later.

When you’re in love with
a ghost, relationships get
quite complicated.

I’m reviewing these books as a group rather than individually, since a lot of what I have to say about them applies to the series as a whole, rather than any individual entry, and I’d rather not repeat myself six times.

Summary: Suzannah (Suze) Simon is not exactly your normal teenage girl: she’s a mediator, which means she can see and hear ghosts (and punch them, if needed). And since no one knows her secret, her work in convincing the dead to move on usually winds up with her getting into trouble she can’t explain. When her mom remarries and moves Suze from New York City out to Northern California, Suze hopes that the biggest problem that she’ll have to deal with is her three annoying new stepbrothers. But that’s before she meets Jesse – an incredibly hot young rancher who has been dead for 150 years… and is currently haunting Suze’s bedroom.

In Darkest Hour, Suze has to wrangle both her new summer job – working at a local resort as a babysitter for Jack Slater, the most annoying kid ever – and her work as a mediator. But while the ghosts she encounters are normally upset, the current one is actually homicidal. It’s the ghost of Maria de Silva, the ex-fiancé of Jesse, and she’s threatening Suze’s life unless Suze manages to stop the construction her stepfather is planning for the back yard. But what’s buried there that Maria doesn’t want found… and if it’s what Suze thinks it is, is it the one thing that’s keeping Jesse from moving on?

Haunted sees the return of Paul Slater, who is also a mediator. Suze is in love with Jesse, but she’s not sure he returns her feelings… and even if he did, how could their relationship possibly work? But Paul is flesh and blood, and he definitely does want Suze… and he’s willing to do whatever it takes to get her, including getting rid of Jesse for good.

In Twilight, Suze has learned from Paul that she has powers beyond just talking to ghosts – like the power to move through time. Paul has promised that he won’t try to exorcise Jesse again… but he never promised not to stop him from becoming a ghost in the first place. If Suze really loves Jesse, shouldn’t she want to try to prevent his murder, even if it means that they’d never meet?

Review: These books are great brain candy – light, fast, and fun, with a very appealing leading man. The second set of three books (books 4-6) are where Suze and Jesse’s relationship, and Jesse’s history, really starts to come a lot more to the forefront, as compared to the first three books which were much more independent, with one-off ghosts. That’s great – it’s a sweet romance story with about the right level of angst, and Jesse’s history and back story are really interesting. However, since Cabot moves away from the “angry-ghost-of-the-week” style of the first three books, the main antagonist in these three books is Paul Slater, who is horrible (seriously, one of the characters with the fewest redeeming qualities that I’ve ever read). I really, really hate this character, is what I’m saying, and even though he’s effective as a villain, he’s just so horrible that the more he’s around, the less I like the book.

Darkest Hour is where we really get most of Jesse’s backstory, which as I said, is interesting and adds an additional historical layer to the story. Cabot also gets into some of the metaphysics of ghosts a little bit more here than she has previously (e.g. what happens to Jesse if they find his body? What happens when ghosts are sent on to wherever they go next?) Maria’s an effectively powerful and scary bad guy, Jack Slater winds up being an interesting sub-plot, and Paul isn’t around much until the end, so: 4 out of 5 stars.

Haunted is… problematic. To say the least. Essentially what it boils down to is that Cabot doesn’t appear to know the difference between sexual harrassment and flirting (something that I’d also noticed in Insatiable). Paul Slater is a manipulative, violent, and sexually-assaulting psychopath, but it’s not treated like as big of a deal as it should be, because hey, he’s hot, and at least it’s nice for Suze to have a boy that actually likes her, right? SO GROSS.

This is actually from Darkest Hour (page 15), but it continues in this vein (and gets worse – up to actual assault) throughout Haunted:

“All right. Who called Room Service and ordered the pretty girl?” Paul wanted to know.

Well okay, that wasn’t funny. That was actually sort of sexually harassing, if you think about it. But the fact that the guy saying it was my age, about six feet tall, and olive-complected, with curly brown hair and eyes as blue as the ocean just beyond the Pebble Beach golf course, made it not so bad.

Not so bad. What am I talking about? The guy could sexually harass me anytime he wanted to. At least *someone* wanted to.

RAAAAAAGE.

So, yeah. I spent most of Haunted waiting for Suze to knee Paul in the junk and then toss him off a cliff. But she doesn’t. Because if a guy’s interested in you, you owe him your time and attention even if he’s mean and awful and won’t take no for an answer and you like someone else anyways. (That was SO MUCH SARCASM, in case it wasn’t obvious.) And because Suze keeps giving in to awful, awful Paul, it makes me not care quite as much about the problems that it causes in her and Jesse’s relationship. 3 out of 5 stars.

The time-travel conceit that Cabot introduces in Twilight comes a little out of left field. Prior to this point, there had been nothing to suggest that Mediators had anything like this kind of ability, but hey, suddenly and conveniently they do, because the plot needs them to. But looking past this obvious contrivance, the plot that it’s in service of is actually really good. There’s the ethical question of whether Suze should stop Jesse from dying if that means they’ll never meet, there’s the actual time travel part itself (which: no matter how contrived, I do love a good time travel story), and the ending is unexpected but still makes sense, and feels earned, which is not always the case in books like this, especially as the climax of a six-book series. And, while Paul’s still around and being evil, he’s at least less rapey in this book (although still gross and awful), and is more like the catalyst for the plot rather than its central villain, so that’s all to the good. 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: Total fluff, but fun total fluff (and although moderately rage-inducing, not quite as much as several of Cabot’s other books). If the description “ghost of a hot 150-years-dead Hispanic cowboy haunting your bedroom” sounds appealing (and boy howdy, is the ghost in question appealing!), then they’re definitely worth a read; they’d be ideal for on a plane or by the pool. Books 4-6 do need to be read in order, as the plots are a lot more interconnected than the first three.

Darkest Hour: This Review on LibraryThing | This Book on LibraryThing | Amazon
Haunted: This Review on LibraryThing | This Book on LibraryThing | Amazon
Twilight: This Review on LibraryThing | This Book on LibraryThing | Amazon

Other Reviews: Find them at the Book Blogs Search Engine.
Have you reviewed this book? Leave a comment with the link and I’ll add it in.

First Lines:
Darkest Hour: Summer. Season of long, slow days and short, hot nights.
Haunted: Fog. That’s all I can see.
Twilight: It had been a typical Saturday morning in Brooklyn.

Vocab: (see the whole list)

  • Darkest Hour, p. 46: “The truth is, I think even my stepfather has begun to realize what I have known since the day I met him: that his middle son is a bohunk.” – A lout—but was first a derogatory term for a Hungarian or person of east-central Europe, based on Bohemian.
    .

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