Wide Open by Deborah Coates Book Review


Wide Open by Deborah Coates

I’m back! Finally done with the crazy month of final exams and moving. Finally I have time to read again! Deborah Coates writes a page-turning fantasy novel set in small town South Dakota. Hallie Michaels returns from serving in Afghanistan for her sister’s funeral three weeks after she herself had died for seven minutes. After that death experience, she started seeing ghosts; a fellow soldier and friend, Eddie, had died in the same attack she had nearly died in, and stayed with her now after death as a cold, silent presence. And after getting off the plane in South Dakota, her sister’s ghost shows up. Everyone says that her sister, Dell, committed suicide. But Hallie knows that cannot be the case. When the new sheriff’s deputy, Boyd, says the investigation is ongoing, but doesn’t give more details, Hallie starts her own investigation which leads her to question the weather research company that everyone was talking about and where her sister had worked.

The Good:

When I finally got back into reading, I needed a page-turner to lose myself in and this definitely did the job. I think I finished the 600+ book in a day. Ms. Coates is a compelling storyteller. The writing is good for the story—it doesn’t bog things down with big words and over-detailed descriptions, but conveys the mood, characters and story well. The plot is engaging and Wide Open is perfect for a summer read while sitting on top of a bluff overlooking a river and city.

Hallie is a good character—she is struggling with her sister’s death, being jerked out of a war zone and back into rural South Dakota, and the fact that she started seeing ghosts. She is not sappy and emotional, but she is very blunt and honest, and she brings out her country girl and military personas a lot. Her friends in the story are believable and typical of a small town—there is the best friend from forever, another girl who she wasn’t really good friends with before but is a bit of a gossip and wants to be friends everyone, her sister’s arrogant money-given-to-him ex-boyfriend who acts the tough guy, the guy she dated briefly years ago, and the new good-looking sheriff deputy in town who keeps following her around.

The Bad:

There aren’t any deep themes in the book if you like to look for hidden or obvious meanings. At times I was frustrated with the characters because they came to conclusions too slowly. There was obviously something fishy with the weather company, but I guess as a reader I shouldn’t expect the characters to realize something that quickly, especially since they didn’t believe magic and ghosts existed. I do like to be surprised, however, and I failed to be really surprised at how things unfolded.

The idea behind the ghosts and why they appear is not exactly new, which is disappointing on some levels. New magic systems are thrilling to discover, but the ghosts aren’t really new. The other fantastical part of the story—the reason why Hallie’s sister died, is more unique and makes up for the ghost part, though it was somewhat predictable also. Regardless, the ghost’s story works well with the novel and I enjoyed it a lot.

The Verdict:
Read: If you want a fantastical page-turner and easy summer read to enjoy outside while sipping lemonade in the sun—read this novel. The characters are easy to like and relate to (especially if you are from a small town), and the plot moves quickly.

Don’t read: There really aren’t any reasons not to read this book—unless you somehow are not interested by anything referred to above.

Written by Heidi V

Heidi is a co-creator and writer at Definitely Not for the Birds (DNFB). She is an avid reader, a die-hard Badger fan, and knows from experience that a good hike can solve almost any ailment. Follow Heidi @heidi_5 and DNFB @not4birds.