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An Empty Swing by N. J. Hanson is a paranormal ghost story with a chilling premise, complex characters, and a satisfying ending. The story itself is intriguing, the type of story that leaves you hanging on each page until the end. But in terms of content, this story is a better fit for mature audiences than the younger readers it seems to be directed at.

Hiding from the class bully on a local playground, Luis meets a girl with auburn hair and a red beanie, named Alice. She reveals herself as a ghost, with no memory of her past life or death, linked to the playground along with several other ghost children. Finding out that ghosts exist because of unfinished business in life, Luis takes it upon himself to discover her identity and help Alice fulfill her purpose by finding out how she died. With the help of a girl named Serena Ravenwood, they investigate the deaths of Alice and the others, but matters are complicated by a vindictive ghost who has dire plans for both the living and the dead.

This book has a very appealing plot with an appropriate level of suspense for the danger and complexity that the characters face. Most of the characters have a distinct background and motive, with a degree of pathos that makes it possible to empathize with them. I enjoyed the different topics and issues raised within the narrative, some of them quite difficult, and the writing, though simple, made the pages come alive.

However, this story appears to be written for younger reading levels both in quality of writing and in the characters, using simple words, short sentences, and a lot of unnecessary dialogue to make sure the reader understands what is going on. This is slightly perplexing, given that the story contains content that is much better suited for mature readers, including a horrifying scene where a pedophile rapes a child. This causes a major conflict of interest between the author’s perceived intended audience and the one it best fits. Additionally, the book was obviously not professionally edited. I found dozens of grammatical errors and typos, distracting me and interrupting the flow of the story.

My official rating of this book is a 2 out of 4 stars. This book would be much more appealing if it could be revised and edited to conform to the audience it is intended for, and eliminate the bulk of the spelling and grammar mistakes. Though the story was interesting to me, I do not consider it a good enough book that I would suggest it to others.

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