Halos and Horns
Sanjana M. Vijayshankar
age group: 
12+ yrs
Number of pages: 
Red Turtle
ghosts humour
fiction, fantasy, humour


This delightful novel for older teens straddles three story genres effortlessly - it's a ghost story set half in the real world and half in a fantasy world, told with humour and sensitivity. It also manages - in its own simple, funny, unsentimental and non - preachy way - to convey various moral truths about good and evil, the power of choice, the dangers of anger and how to be happy.

The story starts rather tragically with our protagonist Arundhati turning into a ghost as she dies in an accident, when she and her twenty - something friends get together; but don't be misled by this dark opening.

As the feisty, incorrigible Arundhati finds herself in the afterlife, she faces both God and Satan, and has to make a difficult choice. To help her on, she is given a checklist of tasks both good and evil.

When she goes back to earth as a ghost to fulfil those tasks, we share her poignant and hilarious adventures. The author manages to very dexterously blend realism, humour and some rather touching moments, as the protagonist Arundhati, in ghost form, fulfils her tasks, even managing to turn evil to good as she enters the bodies and lives of various people.

Perhaps the most impressive is the chapter where she encounters the imp who tries hard to get her enraged, while enabling the painful revisiting and expiation of an old childhood memory and wound.

The most moving is the one where she enters her grandmother's home and accomplishes the final task on her checklist.

The language is racy and will appeal to today's teens while the descriptions of places, characters and their feelings are well etched. Bangalore city, where most of the action is set, is easily recognisable.

A good, very enjoyable read.

My favourite takeaway line:

"Heaven is, after all, what you want it to be."

Reviewed by Urmila Ramakrishna