Written by Meg Cabot
Published November, 2004 by Pan Macmillan
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Ghosts ruin everything. Especially your love life.
Everything is going great for Suze. Her new life in California is a whirlwind of parties and excellent hair days. Tad Beaumont, the hottest boy in town, has even asked Suze out on her very first date. Suze is so excited that she's willing to ignore her misgivings about Tad... particularly the fact that he's not Jesse, whose ghostly status - not to mention apparent disinterest in her - make him unattainable.
What Suze can't ignore, however, is the ghost of a murdered woman whose death seems directly connected to dark secrets hidden in none other than Tad Beaumont's past.
High Stakes, the second instalment of Meg Cabot’s laugh out loud The Mediator series is just as enjoyable as the first. Susannah Simon is back and so is her smart mouth! As Suze struggles to navigate the Southern California social scene and the possibilities of dating, she also has her Mediator powers to think of, as well as her deepening relationship with resident ghost Jesse.
“I swear, sometimes I am convinced my life is just a series of sketches for America’s Funniest Home Videos, minus all that pants-dropping business. Except my life really isn’t all that funny if you think about it.”
My main problem with High Stakes is that it takes about 40-50 pages to re-cap us on what happened in Love You To Death. I think, shockingly, some of the paragraphs and sentences are even copied and pasted, which doesn’t sit well with a reader like myself. Of course, you simply can’t skip these parts because there are also new developments weaved in. I found myself skimming through, instead, but it really detracted from the experience.
But, but, but – everything that I loved about the first book was here again in High Stakes. The lovable Suze, the ever-growing tension between she and Jesse as well as the overprotective Father Dominic who has trouble using a mouse (and wondering in the fact the internet exists).
“And I’m sure than in Poland, or somewhere, it is considered cool to drive a Porsche and wear necklaces and black silk, but at least back in Brooklyn if you did those things you were either a drug dealer or from New Jersey.”
This time, Suze has a maybe date with the super-rich Tad Beaumont, who, other than being incredibly gorgeous and swimming in cash, is also a bit of a… dummy. Suze doesn’t relish this fact, nor does she deny it, but she’s so excited about being ON A DATE and MAYBE HAVING A BOYFRIEND that she’s willing to overlook this. However, in true Suze fashion, she soon puts an abrupt stop to it as only she can – ‘GROW UP!’ (even throwing in an offhanded comment about his gold chain habit). Oh, Suze. Never change.
The ghostly mystery in this one has something to do with a screaming woman who keeps visiting Suze at night. When you find out the conclusion to this one, it’s incredibly heart-wrenching. I, of course, knew what the twist was as I’ve read it before, but it was still a lovely ending.
The ‘main’ plotline is kind of accidental, tying in with Tad Beaumont and his vampire-esque nutjob father. Turns out Suze goes down the wrong path when investigating the identity of the screaming ghost and stumbles upon another problem (with its own ghosts) all together. Things end up looking pretty bleak for Suze, but she’s able to save her skin (with a tiny bit of help from Jesse) and is even rewarded by the promise that her BFF Gina is coming to visit.
“Father Dom looked taken aback. “Normal?” he echoed. As in, who would ever want to be that?”
There are some nifty developments with Suze’s mediator powers; she now finds out she can ‘call’ certain ghosts to her, which comes in handy when it comes to Jesse. There’s also the new addition of Spike the cat, the last wish of a young boy ghost Suze meets. All in all, it’s a neat and tidy little story.
What I keep reading for, however, is the relationship between Suze and Jesse. Right now in High Stakes, Suze is willing to admit she’s falling for him – but we have no indication from Jesse what his feelings may be. I love the ‘slow burn’ of their relationship; seeing them become friends. Seriously, some of the best conversations in this series involve the two of them. They’re a real treat to read.
I probably didn’t enjoy this book as much as the first (the mystery aspect of this one wasn’t my favourite, nor was all the re-capping) but I’m having an absolute blast re-reading this series.