I have read all of Kelley Armstong’s young adult novels and I have loved every one of them. The Unquiet Past is no different. In fact, the only real negative thing i can say about this book is that it is way too short! I was begging for more.
We follow a sixteen year old girl named Tess who has been an orphan for as long as she can remember except that she has a secret. Tess sees these visions of people that she thinks are ghosts and she has no explanation as to why she gets them. On her eighteenth birthday, she will receive a clue to discovering her past, however this day comes early when a fire burns down her orphanage home and she can no longer stay there. Tess is put into this journey of self discovery and finds herself in Quebec, Canada learning things about her history perhaps she would rather not know.
Right off the bat we are introduced to this protagonist that has a supernatural ability. So, like most other novels, we are thinking that this power is going to be some self-revelation for the character and it’s going to play some HUGE role in the plot; but actually this is not the case. While her ability is significant, the story has more of a thriller feel than paranormal. Armstrong is really great at writing female protagonists. She has written her fair share of them, yet they are always unique and always badass in their own way. Tess is super resourceful, funny, really smart and tough. Although she is small and has been living in an orphanage her whole life, she has remarkable knowledge of the outside world. The lead male character in this story is pretty much the epitome of a teenage boy. He’s grumpy, stubborn and he never likes to talk, but he’s also smart, caring and understanding. I like that Armstrong doesn’t exaggerate on his features. He is tall and slim which makes him cute. It’s a realistic attraction, he’s not this over the top sexy, male model that is so out of the girl’s league. Speaking of attraction, Armstrong is also great at progressing relationships and avoiding the ‘love at first sight’ syndrome, AKA L.A.F.S.S.. Her writing is gripping and the story is enthralling. It was actually a lot creepier than I had originally thought it was going to be. Maybe it was because I was reading in the middle of the night, but my heart was genuinely pounding with anticipation.
Besides the book being too short, I also think that Armstrong could have written the story in the present. It is set in 1963 Quebec and Ontario, however, I do not think it was necessary. There were minimal references to the actual time period that if written in present time, would still have made sense. But it didn’t change my overall experience with the book anyways.
Now to the SPOILERS section:
So, first thing is first, asylum hospital?! Thanks Kelley for stimulating the halloween thoughts right out of me. I was actually kind of freaked out when Tess was in the basement and she heard that girl asking for help. I think I was holding my breath! Also, when she gets locked in the closet room thing and the girl screams like right next to her, like oh my goodness, what the actually heck!? That would really scare the poop right out of me! I was thinking for a while that the ghost she was seeing was actually her mother. I though that would have been really interesting, but it never happened.
I really loved the characters in the book, even though we really weren’t introduced to too may secondary ones. I think that with a shorter book like this, it is a good thing that we really only got to know seven or eight people at the most. Tess was a great protagonist. She has all the characteristics that readers love to read about but she still has flaws. She is still insecure about her abilities and about being called crazy. I also really liked Jackson. He was just such a genuine character that even when he was being anything less than polite, I couldn’t help but love him!
As far as stupid decisions go, Tess getting into that truck with Mr. John/Etienne/Steve the Creeps was the worst choice she could have ever made. I knew he was going to be bad news, it was a definite given. I also liked that Jackson felt protective of her pretty early and not because he was developing feelings right away but just because she was a girl (and because he had sisters) and he felt it was his position as a guy to stand up for her. I thought that was very chivalrous.
Uhm… did anybody expect the old professor to be Dr. K? I actually did not see that coming! Man… I was actually shocked when I read that.
I really liked the scene where Tess and Jackson are fighting because he kept that huge secret about his family from her. I especially enjoyed that she doesn’t forgive him for a while. It’s very realistic as far as actual arguments go. I was so sad when she said that it was strictly a business relationship and Jackson’s face fell. I felt so bad for him but I understand why Tess was so angry. I love that she was so smart about it though. She didn’t just ditch him, she actually just said that because she knows she can’t do it without him, she will stick around and I thought that was really mature.
I am happy that we find out what happened to her mom and to Jackson’s parents but I’m a bit disappointed that Tess’ father was sort of forgotten. She doesn’t even care that she has no idea what happened to him and I think that it doesn’t really follow her character since at the beginning she was so determined to learn as much as she could about where she came from. But, oh well, I guess if Armstrong wanted to keep the book short she would need to cut that out.
One more thing that I really like is that it is set in Canada! My home country! It makes the characters and the story so much more relatable when it’s taking place in my own home. It brings the element of closeness that I just don’t get with American authors. End of [SPOILERS].
Overall, I loved this one. Kelley Armstrong is one of my favourite authors because she has an amazing way of writing. Her characters are so great and her stories are so unique that I think everyone can enjoy it. I recommend this for all Armstrong lovers, anyone who wants something October/Halloween to read and anyone who wants a short novel that will leave them wanting more!