I was attracted to Exorcising Aaron Nguyen by Lauren Harris because of its unusual title. Exorcising and exorcisms sound entertaining. The name Aaron Nguyen seems to have a Vietnamese origin and I like most things with a Vietnamese origin. The subtitle, The Millroad Academy Exorcists, Book I, tells me that if I like this book, there will be other interesting ones in a series. The result: I liked this book. The plot, characters, and scene setting were all unremarkable. It was the creative use of language that made it worth reading. I won’t give it five Amazon stars, but the language used deserves a 4.5 rating.
Georgia Miller and Hiroki Satou are best friends. The two knew Aaron Nguyen as a classmate. At the very Catholic Millroad Academy it was almost impossible not to know everyone. As the story opens, Aaron has been dead for one week. But his spirit lingers on because he was murdered. Someone had bashed his head in, and Aaron wanted revenge on his murderers. That was priority one. Aaron might also want revenge against others who had irritated him or slighted him to a degree less than murder. Georgia and Hiroki agreed that setting Sister Robert Catharine on fire was probably revenge for a minor punishment Aaron felt unjust.
Hiroki had a gift of Spectral Sight. He could see ghosts that could not cross over to their ultimate destination due to unfinished business on earth. There were more ghosts than just Aaron and Hiroki could see them all. Occasionally he would tell best friend Georgia and sometimes not if he felt she didn’t need to know. There was more to his gift then just seeing ghosts; he could also sense different truths about people by coming into physical contact with people. Hiroki was uncomfortable at what he sometimes saw; he felt like a peeping Tom. For this reason, he avoided physical contact with everyone. This was extremely frustrating to Georgia because she frequently fantasized about different kinds of physical contact she might enjoy with Hiroki.
Georgia and most of the characters in this novel might be called fallen Catholics but that would be semantically impossible. Fallen Catholics first must be Catholic and then fall. Most characters in this novel never fill that first requirement. Instead, they were a bunch of students sequestered by rich parents in a safe and strictly disciplined environment. They all had secrets or problems in their past that didn’t work well in a public school setting. Even Sister Robert had secrets which may or not have contributed to her burning. Georgia has a secret, but I won’t reveal it. Even when readers know the secret, they won’t really appreciate it until a nicely done twist at the ending.
There are a lot of mysteries in this comparatively short novel. Who killed Aaron and why (2 mysteries)? What is Georgia’s secret? Who is The Bishop really? Why is one rosary so unique? Who is the narrator of Chapter One? The narrator (I’ll give you this one; it’s not a spoiler) is Georgia. The name does not appear as she is the first-person narrator. There is nothing in the first chapter to tell the reader the narrator is female. There is even a hint that the narrator might be male. Chapter Two gives us a hint of the narrator’s gender but much more reading is required to find out her name. And it takes even more reading to find out her full name. This goes to the Harris style of writing I like.
As far as language use, it is creative and includes much dropping of the F… bomb. Is anybody offended by this anymore? This is not one of the included mysteries. To illustrate, Hiroki was a competent user of English when he and Georgia met in the sixth grade. He could not understand the meaning of several slang phrases and idioms. Georgia used Hiroki’s deficiencies to get closer to him as she explained English as used at Millroad Academy. An example:
“… by the end of sophomore year, he’d perfected the vast and varied usage of the word “fuck”. Sure, he’d done all the memorizing and mistake-making, but I wiped a lot of spit off our desks teaching him how to pronounce the “f”.” (Kindle locations 51-52).
A more safe-for-work and socially acceptable example of language used is when Georgia was at her favorite coffee shop, “Grounds Up.”
“My Pavlovian response was already kicking in: Georgia smell coffee; Georgia get in line… sometimes I don’t mind the hive-mind of flagrant consumerism.” (Kindle locations 888-889).
This was a fun, short, weekend read outside my normal reading genre. Refreshment for the brain, it sells for USD 0.99 on Amazon.