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Khanh the Killjoy

The Weight of Souls - Bryony Pearce Actual rating: 2.5I have to admit, I had an ulterior motive in reading this book: I was hoping to get my fill of an awesome, kick-ass, take-no-prisoner Asian heroine. That was what initially attracted me to this book. The cover. It's a pretty cover. The heroine is obviously Asian, and the instance I saw it, I quite literally squeaked for joy. It wasn't a kawaii sound, but I digress.Let's face it, multicultural characters in YA fiction...in Western fiction, period, is an absolute rarity. With the rare exception, when they do appear, they're often: a) stereotypically portrayedb) written using the knowledge gleaned from a Wikipedia article on animec) tries too hard and end up tossing around often-used phrases and pop culture references in an effort to appeal to their audience (oppa!!! saranghaeyo!!1!)I am glad to say that none of the above problem exists in this book. This character may be Asian, but that isn't really integral to the plot. She's just Asian, like I happen to be female. Let's not make a big deal out of it. She was born and raised in England, so was her mother, and her race really isn't a major plot device at all. In fact, this book is pleasantly multicultural. The setting is the present-day UK, British slang and terminology is used, but it's not a barrier to comprehension. You don't need to have a genius-level IQ to eventually figure out what an "Oyster card" does or what a slang like "manky" means.Now, onto the bad. The book itself just isn't that great. The main character is uninteresting and contrary, the supporting characters are...shall we say...assholes? The romance was absolutely forced, and there is a decided lack of character development.The plot is pretty standard for an YA PNR. Girl sees ghost, girl chases ghost, girl is ostracized by peers, girl solves mystery of [fill in the blank here], girl falls in love with some asshat or another along the way. Taylor is half-Asian, she's been seeing ghosts and chasing down murderers and Marking them since she was 10. Her mom is dead (her family curse has this annoying quality of eventually killing off the affected family members or instilling them into a mental institution at a young age), her father thinks she's insane like her mother, and has a disease that gives her the Mark on her skin, and is feverishly hunting down the cure. Due to her abnormality of seeing ghosts and the Mark on her skin, as well as the ability of transferring the Mark to whomever she touches, even if that person is not the actual murderer, Taylor is not the most popular character at school (understatement). She misses school a lot, due to her "work," and is subjected to a considerable amount of bullying by her peers.I felt so bad for Taylor initially. She's got a dad who thinks she's insane, and the amount of bullying by her former friends that she faces was painful to read. Especially when she's taunted with names like "Lucy Liu," "Godzilla," and "China." The first third of this book had me cringing and wanting to give Taylor a hug due to all the crap she's facing in her life. Aside from my sympathy with Taylor due to her curse, I didn't really find her a good character. Maybe it's due to her back-up wall of defense, but Taylor's prickliness really made her a hard character to love. I am tempted to label her TSTL, due to the situations that she sometimes put herself into, but I don't know if that's a correct label for her. It's due to this curse that she absolutely has to fulfill or die trying. Is it TSTL if she rushes headfirst into danger when trying to accomplish her mission and save her own life in the progress? Because if she doesn't transfer the Mark onto someone else (hopefully the true murderer), she will die of it herself.Now, the curse. It's a combination of family history + some conjured up version of King Tut's curse. Two hundred years ago, an ancestor of the Oh family went on a grave-robbing exploratory expedition and found Queen Nefertiti's tomb. When they opened it, they got a whole other kettle of fish that they didn't expect. Long story sort, that ancestor ended up making a deal with the devil...or rather, Anubis, that ended up screwing over his descendants. They're cursed with the ability to see murdered ghosts, and those murdered ghosts can touch them, leaving a Mark which will doom them in a few short weeks unless said descendant finds the true murderer and passes on that Mark to them first. The Egyptian mythology is of no relevance here, the Egyptian mythology, as interesting as it seems initially, is limited to Anubis. It is not exact, neither is it true to the legend. The curse of Anubis is more of a plot device and a name thrown about as an easily recognizable Egyptian god of the dead to the average Western reader than an actual basis on the real Egyptian god.The victim, Justin, is a real freaking winner. He is one of Taylor's former friends turned enemies, and he is among the ones who bullied her and made her life so miserable. I had zero sympathy for him initially and his reaction to his own death combined with his reluctance to assist Taylor with finding his murderer so that she can save both their asses does not endear him to me any further. That's among the reasons why the romance between them felt so ridiculously forced.The mystery in this book didn't really ring true to me, and the major plot twist in this book just left me flabbergasted...not in a good way. It felt like the book took a completely different turn from its initial plot. The mystery was not well-written and not well-explained, in my opinion; it just felt like things happened out of nowhere, with zero explanation, and Taylor's behavior during the latter third of the book was so contradictory with the prickly, survival-minded, purpose-driven girl we initially met. She didn't evolve as a character at all, nor did Justin. A boy who succumbs that easily to peer pressure is not worth it. He didn't change; it is a character defect to me that Taylor even thinks about him romantically. Justin is a tool and a fool.The book is readable, but the writing is not remarkable in its own merit, and there is no character development to speak of. The grand mystery of the Oh family is a far stretch of the imagination, and overall, this book just left me confused and cold.I received this book as an advanced review copy from Netgalley.