Ghost Hand

Ghost Hand

Before I begin, I’d just like to note that today marks the two year anniversary of my first ever review. I’m really pleased that Arkham Reviews is still going strong after all this time. Thank you so much for your support, submissions and recommendations!

Anyhow, today I’m going to be looking at Ghost Hand by Ripley Patton. Ghost Hand was first published in 2012 and is a paranormal science fiction story about a teenage girl with an ethereal birth defect. It forms the first part of The PSS Chronicles and is followed by Ghost Hold (2013) and Ghost Heart (2014). The final instalment, provisionally titled Ghost Hope, is planned for release later this year.

Olivia Black has always been different. She was born with a rare defect called a Psyche San Soma or PSS. Her right hand isn’t normal skin and bone, it’s made of transparent glowing energy. Over the years, she’s grown used to people staring. Even her mother can hardly stand to look at it.

If having a ghost hand isn’t weird enough, things get stranger still on the day that the mysterious Marcus joins her class. That’s the day that the ghost hand first goes rogue, lashing out and drawing something from deep inside one of her classmates’ body. While this act shocks Olivia, Marcus doesn’t seem surprised. Quite the opposite, in fact. He seems to think that she’s in great danger and urges her to come with him.

Later that evening, Olivia discovers that Marcus was right. She discovers that CAMFers – vigilantes who believe that teenagers with PSS are subhuman – are hunting for her and want to harvest her PSS for reasons unknown. Olivia has no choice but to trust that Marcus will be able to get her to safety, yet knows that it’s dangerous to put her life in the hands of a stranger. For all she knows, Marcus could be working for the enemy…

I received this novel for free in a bundle with a number of other YA titles (all of which I will get to in future reviews) and have to admit that I chose to review this one first based on the cover and title. I mean, how could I not? There is something just inherently funny about the concept of a ghost hand. Added to the amusement was the fact that “ghost handing” is actually a euphemism for something (which is possibly why authors should always check the Urban Dictionary before naming their work).

It’s unfair and childish of me, I know, but at least I’m glad to say that this novel surprised me. I mean that in a good way. Ghost Hand is actually a very well written novel. The quality of prose was fluent and contained no noticeable errors and the pacing was very fast. I breezed through the story, never feeling that it dragged in any way. The plot really throws the reader into the deep end with the action starting from the very first chapter and rarely slowing until the tense climax. It was quick to grab my attention and soon I found myself desperate to find out what was going on.

The concept was pretty original on the whole. While it did thematically have the feel of the X-men about it, it wasn’t a superhero story and only a couple of the characters seemed to have any actual powers. Most of them were just teens with random glowing extremities who were routinely discriminated against by “normal” people.

However, this concept wasn’t executed in the best way. Most of my issues with the story boil down to the fact that nothing is really explained. I’m not even entirely sure what PSS is. I know how it looks but beyond that, I’m a little lost. The novel explains that PSS only started to pop up in newborns over the previous two decades but it never says why. Similarly, the CAMFers arguments seem a bit weak. They want to have the American government classify PSS kids as being less that human but we never learn what their reasoning is. PSS doesn’t seem to be dangerous. Yale and Jason never do anything with theirs’ and Nose only seems to be able to change the shape of his nose. The only character who seems to be a special snowflake is Olivia and the limitations of her PSS are never defined.

Essentially, all we know about Olivia’s power is that she can “reach inside people” and draw out an object. This object seems to have some meaning to its original owner but its function is, basically, whatever Olivia needs to get her out of a jam. The ghost hand is nothing more than a deus ex machina generator. It’s never explained why it can do this while no other PSS is shown working this way. Olivia just seemed to be overpowered and this really removed a lot of tension that the novel would otherwise have. Whatever happens to her, you know that she can just reach into someone and pull out the one item that will make everything alright.

However, despite this, I actually did really like Olivia. She was a relatable protagonist and spoke with a realistic teenage voice. While she did have a few childish views that seemed out of place (I could buy a teenager with her past being afraid of hospitals but it seemed a little silly to have her hold that doctors routinely killed people), she was largely a snarky, untrusting young woman who was still willing to do anything to help out her friends.

Both of the relationships that Olivia held within the novel felt natural. While she had an initial attraction to Marcus, I bought the fact that this was initially purely physical as she was never sure how trustworthy he was. I also really liked the relationship with her mother. The friction between them felt very natural, stemming initially from their conflicting views about her ailing father’s medical care. While it was clear to the reader that the mother wasn’t as cold-hearted as Olivia thought, the novel was told entirely from Olivia’s perspective and so you could clearly see how her mother’s aloofness hurt her daughter. I really wish that more had been made about this relationship. The mother only features in the first third of the story and so many things were left unsaid.

However, aside from Olivia, the other characters all felt a little 2-dimensional. The CAMFers are just villains, happy to sacrifice children for their own nefarious purposes (which are never really made clear). Jason spends most of his page-time in a murderous rage, though I couldn’t really see why he focuses this hatred directly onto Olivia or why none of the others stop him. Neither Nose, Yale, Passion or Emma really had much to do either. They were just ever present extra characters, there if needed but displaying no unique personality.

Yet it was Marcus that caused me the most frustration. More specifically, it was Marcus’s secret. A lot is built over the first half of the novel around the fact that Olivia is suspicious of Marcus but it’s never clear what (if anything) he’s hiding from her. While I won’t reveal any spoilers to you here, I’ll just say that the eventual reveal of Marcus’s secret is underwhelming. While Olivia explodes at the revelation, I don’t really understand why Marcus felt the need to hide it from his friends at all. The ultimate reveal didn’t affect any of them in any way.

Anyhow, I guess that’s a good place to stop. While I felt as though the concept of Ghost Hand showed promise and the pacing of the story was excellent, I just felt as though it could have been better executed. Too many questions were raised and not enough answers were given. I’m really curious to see where Olivia’s adventure will take her next and hope that the story will gain a little more weight in the next instalment.

Ghost Hand can be purchased as a Paperback and eBook on

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. hermionefowl
    Feb 08, 2016 @ 01:00:51

    Two years, yay you! 🙂 I just can’t decide if I would like this book or not… It does sound interesting, but I feel like there are better books I should be reading? We’ll see I guess 🙂


    • Kim
      Feb 08, 2016 @ 07:40:26

      Thank you! It was a unique book but certainly could have been better executed. It’s certainly not one of my ‘must reads’ but at least it was exciting and had some originality to it 🙂


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