If I Have to Be Haunted by Miranda Sun
Cemetery Boys meets Legendborn in this thrillingly romantic, irresistibly fun YA contemporary fantasy debut following a teenage Chinese American ghost speaker who (reluctantly) makes a deal to raise her nemesis from the dead.
Cara Tang doesn’t want to be haunted.
Look, the dead have issues, and Cara has enough of her own. Her overbearing mother insists she be the “perfect” Chinese American daughter—which means suppressing her ghost-speaking powers—and she keeps getting into fights with Zacharias Coleson, the local golden boy whose smirk makes her want to set things on fire.
Then she stumbles across Zach’s dead body in the woods. He’s even more infuriating as a ghost, but Cara’s the only one who can see him—and save him.
Agreeing to resurrect him puts her at odds with her mother, draws her into a dangerous liminal world of monsters and magic—and worse, leaves her stuck with Zach. Yet as she and Zach grow closer, forced to depend on each other to survive, Cara finds the most terrifying thing is that she might not hate him so much after all.
Maybe this is why her mother warned her about ghosts.
Delightful and compulsively readable, this contemporary fantasy has something for every reader: a snarky voice, a magnetic enemies-to-lovers romance, and a spirited adventure through a magical, unpredictable world hidden within our own.
COVER ARTIST: Hilary D. Wilson (art), Catherine Lee (design)
LENGTH: 368 pages
AGE: Young Adult
General Vibe: Cemetery Boys x Legendborn
Queer Rep Summary: Lesbian/Sapphic Secondary Character(s).
Zach and Cara have never gotten along, but they clearly get something out of riling each other up. Cara doesn't like the way Zach gets whatever he wants due to his parents' position and money. Zach must at least somewhat enjoy riling up Cara because he keeps doing it. Cara agrees to help Zach in exchange for money, but as they continue on their journey and keep having to rely on each other, their rivalry and grudging cooperation turns into something more.
Cara is caught in the middle of a rift between her mother and grandmother. Cara's mother denied her own ghost-speaking abilities until she lost them, and her grandmother lingers as a ghost in the house, speaking with Cara but unable to speak to her own daughter. Cara feels stuck between them, unable to please her mother unless she denies her grandmother's continued existence. She's also not as much of a ghost-speaker as her grandmother wants her to be, since she's afraid to disappoint or anger her mother more than she already is. Most of the book takes place during her quest with Zach to stop the venom from killing him for good, which means she has time to grow away from her mother and grandmother, space to feel more like her own person. It's an excellent coming-of-age story.
The worldbuilding is really cool, on their journey to find the antidote the teens pass through several different areas which all have their own atmosphere, wonders, and dangers. Some of the worldbuilding is clearly intended to lay the foundations for later stories, but because Cara is trying to understand her grandmother and her own history, nothing feels like it was only said for the sake of some future story. The details matter here, in this book, and hopefully they'll get to matter again if this ever gets a sequel. This seemed like it was a stand-alone book until the very last chapter, when it sets up a hook for a future story. It pulls on threads laid down throughout the rest of the book but which seemed to be just background details for the main plot. It's a smart narrative choice, since if there's never a sequel then this story still feels very satisfying and complete, but if there is more to come then it's a great teaser for later books to address.
Moderate CW for grief, classism, toxic friendship, toxic relationship, emotional abuse, fire, confinement, blood, violence, injury detail, medical content, car accident, cannibalism, animal death, child death, parental death, death
Minor CW for ableist language, racism, vomit, alcohol, neglect, forced institutionalization, mental illness, self harm.