Sub-genre: Contemporary, YA
Rating: 4 pints of blood
Cross-posted from genrereviews.
Ellie has the normal types of worries for a seventeen-year-old girl, fretting about things like her lack of popularity, her weight issues, and getting away with breaking school rules. She's supportive of her friends, even when it means she gets roped into helping out with the school play, and she has a huge crush on Mark, her mysterious and gorgeous classmate.
When she literally bumps into Mark one day, everything changes, but not in the way she might have daydreamed about. After running into him, Ellie starts noticing weird things all around her, especially anywhere Mark is concerned. Because Mark's not quite normal, and the collision has opened Ellie's eyes to an entire world full of myths and stories come to life.
Guardian of the Dead is not like anything you've ever read. Yes, it's a dark fantasy novel in a contemporary setting with teenage protagonists, and those books are overpopulating the world at present, but there's not a whiff of European monsters in here. The mythology she uses is Māori and incredibly well researched (complete with an afterword and a glossary at the end of the book). The heroine is uncomfortably overweight, and remains so even after the end of the novel. Nobody "fixes" it, either by magic or by instilling self-confidence in her from an outside source. Ellie's best friend Kevin is asexual and just coming out to his closest friends in the beginning of the book, and it's never treated as a quirk or a gimmick. The whole thing is set in New Zealand, where Healey herself hails from.
Full, spoiler-free review over here.