Review: Nearly Departed by Rook Hastings

“I’ve seen a ghost,” said Emily. “Well, not seen one exactly. Heard one. At least, I think I have!” Everything has a rational explanation. Unless it doesn’t. Welcome to Weirdsville! Woodsville is not like other towns. Night falls a little earlier there, the shadows are darker and denser, and everyone knows it’s a place where strange things happen. Even if they won’t admit it. Bethan would prefer to be anywhere but here. Jay has his theories, but isn’t ready to share. Hashim sees more than he’ll say, while Kelly’s demons are all too flesh and blood. But Emily’s freak-out brings them out of denial and face to face with the supernatural. Anywhere else, Friday night would be date night. But not in Weirdsville! (from

I love a good ghost story, so when I first heard about Nearly Departed by Rook Hastings I was eager to read it. The cover of the book promises a spooky tale, with a face hidden amongst smoke from candlelight, but would it live up to my expectations? I’m glad to say it definitely did.

The book begins with local gang leader Carter walking his Staffordshire bull terrier in a menacing Bill Sykes kind of way. For the first couple of pages I wondered if I was actually going to like this book at all but very quickly it takes a spooky turn and I was hooked.

The story centers around 5 teenagers, thrown together for a school project. What was brilliant about the characters Rook Hastings has created is how vividly real they are. It’s been a while since I was at school, but I could put the name of one of my old classmates to each and every one of the five. The characters did run the risk of being typical stereotypes, but I think it’s credit to the author that she didn’t just give them recognisable characteristics, but also gave them enough depth so that as a reader it’s easy to become involved with all of them. The book is told in the third person, and this works very well as we are given an insight into their own personal lives, which eventually link up and create a bigger story.

Woodsville is also a fabulous setting. A poor, dingy working class town blighted by sink estates and gang crime it becomes the perfect breeding ground for supernatural horrors. Hastings’ descriptions of Woodsville, nicknamed Wierdsville, are hugely atmospheric. The way she describes the sky, the air, the smells and the oppressive atmosphere in the town make it very easy to imagine and become a part of.

While this book is very spooky, I don’t think it’s too horrific and so would recommend this for most ages from 12+. There isn’t any graphic violence in the book, but it is threatened and suggested. It is quite sinister at times, but I loved that! It certainly beats the Point Horror books I read as a teen. The relationships between the characters are a little flirtatious at times but nothing more. Again I thought Rook Hastings managed to get these dynamics just right and portray the awkwardness and self-consciousness of fledgling relationships between all the characters and it was nice to see it develop, as they became a team.

Nearly Departed isn’t a long read at only 265 pages, and the utterly compelling writing means I found it a very quick read too and had finished within a couple of hours. The entire book though was wonderfully suspenseful and full of twists and turns, so I didn’t really know what was going on until right at the end. This was one of those books I really couldn’t put down and had to drag myself away from to do the things I had to do. Despite having wild guesses throughout, I was still shocked at how things turned out, this is certainly not a predictable read! The only tiny criticism I have is with Jay’s Grandfather and his explanations of the paranormal activity, which did leave me a little confused but I’m hoping these are explained in greater detail in the following books. Other than that I loved this book and would highly recommend it. This is a great ghost story with a modern gothic-like feel. There’s a huge cliffhanger at the end and a snippet from the next book in the series that makes sure I’ll be keeping up with the series, as I can’t wait to find out more about Wierdsville!

My Rating: 4.5/5

7 thoughts on “Review: Nearly Departed by Rook Hastings

  1. Hi Rhiana – thank you for review of my (Rook's) book. Just thought I'd answer Chloe's comment on branching out – you might know I've written teen fiction for girls as well as my women's fiction for some year chloe and about five years ago really wanted to write something that boys might read too. I love ghosts, and paranormal and the concept for this book was developed way back then. But I've been so busy that I only got to write it last year, and I loved every minute! Thanks again for your review – I've posted a link to it on my FB profile and fan page.x


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