Sweet Unrest has a few things in it that always grab my interest: New Orleans, plantation house, ghost, and evil. Yes, this novel does have the usual teen love interest, but here's the kicker: it involves reincarnation and a ghost. What do you do when the person you love with all your heart is a ghost and you're alive? I don't think I'm giving anything away about the plot. It's pretty easy to figure out--right away.
Plot: Lucy Aimes reluctantly moves to New Orleans with her parents and younger brother. Her father is a history professor who's taken a position as curator of Le Ciel Doux, an antebellum sugar plantation just outside of New Orleans. It's now a tourist stop, complete with costumed guides and outbuildings. Lucy is not happy to be here, and hopes to go back to Chicago at the end of the summer to finish her senior year of high school. She's a gifted photographer, and has agreed to help her dad document the plantation. She's also been experiencing the same unsettling dream over and over again growing up, and it's just become more ominous and frequent: she's drowning, and can't save herself.
Cue spooky atmosphere at the plantation. The house itself is gorgeous, but has an air of nastiness around it. Lucy and her family live in a small cottage near the plantation, so she's spared living in the main house itself. Soon after moving in, Lucy notices a gorgeous young man standing at the back of a crowd of employees who are at their first meeting with her father. She's pretty struck by his looks and intensity. And of course he lasers in on her. Soon after, she finds him at a nearby pond, and learns his name is Alex. He's got a bit of a French accent, and seems pretty focused on her. She's drawn to him and can't explain why.
And then the dreams begin. Lucy dreams of Alex, and a young woman named Armantine. Forbidden love due to Armantine's mixed blood doom the two. She's torn between wanting to believe Alex loves her, and wary of losing her heart to a man who may not keep his promise to marry her and instead make her his mistress, as most beautiful quadroons in New Orleans end up. Dark forces swirl around the two in the shape of Thisbe, a local voodoo woman (who scares the bejesus out of everyone around her). What happens to Alex and Armantine? How are they tied to Lucy in today's world?
Lucy has a mystery to solve before it's too late. Evil from the plantation is still wandering around in Lucy's time, and Lucy must learn to trust both Alex and Mama Legba. Who's Mama Legba? She's a strong and powerful priestess who can help Lucy navigate the world of light and dark, goodness and evil. And she is Lucy's strongest ally to discover what really happened to Alex and Armantine in 1841.
This was an enjoyable stroll through the mystery that is New Orleans. I've always loved reading this kind of novel, and for a teen story it has enough history and thorough research into voodoo to keep it interesting. I'll admit the plot involving Alex is certainly a unique one that I haven't seen elsewhere. Lucy does seem a bit lost at first, but she quickly clicks into what's going on and becomes determined to figure things out. She's not afraid to do what she has to, and it's refreshing to see a strong teen female lead carry a story. This is a trend in teen fiction that has had a long life, and only seems to be growing. Girl power!
Rating: 7/10 for the history and unique love story between what was, and what is. A strong female lead who doesn't have all the answers but isn't afraid to keep digging. A good ghost story that won't keep you up at night.