Review: Preloved by Shirley Marr


August 20, 2012 by Heidi

Preloved by Shirley Marr book coverTitle: Preloved [Fishpond|Goodreads]
Author: Shirley Marr [Website]
Standing: Stand alone.
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Paranormal
Published: April 1st, 2012 by Black Dog Books
Format: Paperback; 272 pages.
Source: Book tour hosted by Flannery of The Readventurer
Challenge: Sophomore Reading Challenge

I learned a few things that day.

One: if I hadn’t scared bloody Michael Limawan and his two Lord of the Rings super geeks away, they would have told me that Frodo would tell you never put on a cursed piece of jewellery.

Two: there was a reason why that necklace mysteriously appeared on Rebecca and not me. Because it was intended for her. Rebecca was supposed to be the star of this story, not me. In the correct circumstances I would have been regulated to the sidekick status Rebecca said belonged to me, and I would have been happy with that. I’m cool with the stereotype.

Three: most importantly, I wish my mum had told me something like this: “Amy, do not pick up old lockets and put them around your neck, even if you are distracted and not thinking straight because you’d just been attacked by three Jason Donovans and your best friend was on the verge of possibly breaking up with you forever. You don’t put on an old locket, because it might just have a ghost inside.”

Amy’s always been the sidekick to her best friend Rebecca, and she likes it that way.  She doesn’t have to worry about all the guys loving her, and all the girls hating her; she can focus all of her energy into being Rebecca’s go-to gal and dealing with her superstitious Chinese mother.  Amy certainly wouldn’t have planned to find a locket containing the ghost of a boy from the 80s that only she could see–especially not when that locket was meant for someone else.  Now Amy has to deal with Logan, who see just might want to kill if he weren’t already dead, but just might love a little too.

Preloved was a cute and surprisingly touching story about connecting with one’s identity.  I expected a light hearted paranormal romance, a story where the sidekick finally got a taste of the limelight, but instead I got a story about a girl learning to embrace her culture, her family, and a life outside of the bubble she’d been happily living in so long.  Preloved was certainly light hearted, but not in a completely fluffy way, and I found the incorporation of Chinese mythology both unique and fascinatingly fun.

Sadly for me, Amy was one of those characters I was never really able to love.  She’s too abrasive when it’s not wanted, too convinced that it’s her lifelong role to be someone else’s second, and she never really gets out of the mentality that Rebecca has it all and that’s how life should be.  Rebecca was just a horrid friend, and I was disappointed that while Amy moves beyond being the moon that revolves around Rebecca’s world, she doesn’t wake up and realize Rebecca’s pretty terrible.  Rebecca is one of those girls who cares immensely about looking like she doesn’t care at all, and very carefully cultivates a personality of intrigue and mystery, constantly placing Amy in a secondary roll with no idea that this girl deserves her own story.

I pictured Rebecca and Amy kind of like this:

Rory Gilmore and Lane Kim from Gilmore Girls

Only if Rory was a terrible self-absorbed friend all of the time (rather than just some of it) who always had a crazy hair color and Lane was Chinese instead of Korean and her mother was super Chinese traditional instead of Christian.  Amy’s mom totally has the crazy vintage store and single mom thing down, which isn’t too far from antiques and a father that stops being mentioned after season one!

So it should come as no surprise that despite all physical descriptions, I pictured Logan and Stacey like this:

Rory and Logan from Gilmore Girls
But since it was Amy who was awesome enough to dress up as O-Ren Ishi while Rory Gilmore dressed up as Gogo Yurabi (also awesome), I feel the Gilmore references have to stop here lest things get too muddled.

ANYWAY the whole concept of Preloved is pretty cute.  Amy’s mom owns a vintage shop, where she likes to refer to the items she sells as preloved rather than pre-owned.  The term takes on all sorts of new meanings as the story unfolds and Logan appears from a locket that used to belong to his girlfriend Stacey who just happens to look exactly like Amy’s bestie Rebecca.  So where does Amy fit into this mess, especially when she’s pretty sure she’s falling for this non-corporeal being?

Well of course Amy’s Chinese mother has spent a lifetime warning her about all of the things she shouldn’t do lest she attract a ghost…she just never told her about that one.  And Logan isn’t a vengeful ghost or a hungry ghost, he’s just a [gorgeous] teenaged boy looking to get his girl back.  Which brings us to the whole concept of reincarnation and the possibility that Rebecca really is somehow this Stacey girl that Logan’s so hung up on.

I really loved Preloved‘s take on reincarnation, and honestly hadn’t heard many of the beliefs about it before.  In Amy’s culture, the idea of reincarnation is partly a coping mechanism, but it’s also this really sweet belief that everyone gets a second chance, and that in each lifetime we have the opportunity to make our own decisions about who will be in our lives and who we will be as people–each lifetime is a fresh opportunity, or the chance to make up for your past.

Preloved became very much about Amy connecting with her mom, and others in the Chinese community through their beliefs and sayings, as well as a look at the reality that so many of us idealize another time.  Amy looked back at the 80s as a perfect and quaint time, whereas Logan looked at the present and was shocked that the problems of his day hadn’t yet been solved.

I do have to say that Preloved is the first YA book that has ever made me feel really old.  I found the way Amy talked about the 80s to be pretty annoying, but a large part of that is the reality that I was around for a lot of that first hand.  In the end I found Preloved to be both fun and well crafted, but not quite the perfect book for me.

Likelihood that I’ll be back for more:  Hard to say as Aussie books can be pretty hard to get a hold of over here.  I am still interested in reading Fury, even though I didn’t fall head over heels for Preloved, as I understand it is an incredibly different book.

Recommended for:  
Fans of the 80s, younger teens, those who enjoyed The Paper Menagerie or Midnight in Paris.  “And for everyone who prefers abnormal to paranormal and a bad romance to a love story” as Shirley stated in her dedication.

Real life repercussions of reading this book:
Yup.  This every bit as disturbing as Amy would have you believe:

Get a second opinion:
The Midnight Garden
Vegan YA Nerds
Chronicles of a Book Evangelist
The Readventurer


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While the source for each book I review is posted within its review, please assume unless otherwise stated that books reviewed on Bunbury in the Stacks were received free from the author or publisher in exchange for an honest review.