The Library of the Dead
When I first saw somebody post on this title, I wasn't sure I wanted to get into yet another 'supernatural library' type of book, even though I've enjoyed the ones I've read. But it did sound interesting, and the public library had it...and I'm very glad I gave it a try.
In a future desolate Edinburgh, in which nothing seems to function any more, 14-year-old Ropa is the breadwinner for her little family. She works as a ghostalker; when somebody has a haunting, she can communicate with the ghost and strike a deal. She can also go into another dimension, the everyThere (there are many other dimensions). Ropa doesn't do charity -- she needs every penny to pay the rent -- but a newly-dead mother won't stop bothering her to look for her little boy, who went missing just before she died.
Ropa's decision to look into the boy's disappearance sets her on a dangerous road. Children are going missing, and if they come back, they are vacant and prematurely old. Ropa's friend Jomo sneaks her into the very restricted magicians' library, which is dangerous in its own way, but she also meets a new friend there and starts learning magic. There's a new drug on the market, and the dealer is completely terrifying.
It's all very exciting and fun, and reminded me most of the excellent Lockwood and Co. series by Jonathan Stroud, which is for a younger audience. Although this story stars a teenager, it's not a YA novel. It's fantasy for any age (though also, it gets pretty vulgar at times), and I'd say 14+.
Like Huchu, Ropa is from a Zimbabwean family that has moved to Scotland. 'Ropa' is short for a much longer name. But since I live in California, my brain decided it was Spanish (ropa means clothing) and I had a fairly difficult time remembering that she wasn't.
I particularly liked the detail that Ropa mentions once seeing Trainspotting and thinking it all looked like paradise. Trainspotting is mostly about the squalor of poverty in Edinburgh -- but hey, they've got electricity and running water.
Huchu sets everything up for a series; there are plenty of unanswered questions (what happened in Scotland? where is Ropa's mom? why does everyone have to greet each other with 'God save the king'?) and Ropa is clearly just getting started. The next installment in the series will be Our Lady of Mysterious Ailments. I'm looking forward to that!