Reluctant Guardian

Young Adult - Paranormal
Kindle Edition
Reviewed on 11/25/2014
Buy on Amazon

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Author Biography

Melissa J Cunningham (Also known as M.E. Cunningham) began writing when she was already grown up and a mother of five. Out of the blue she decided to enter a community writing contest and won first place. From that moment on she had a new love: Writing. Melissa is the author of The Elementalist, Book two in the Ransomed Souls Series, and also the author of the Into Terratir Saga, The Eye of Tanúb and The Celestine Sword.
Melissa’s first novel: Reluctant Guardian, was accepted for publication through Clean Teen Publishing in August 2013.
When she is not writing you can find her spending time with her family in Northern Utah, in the country, where she lives among the fields of alfalfa and horses and chickens. Melissa loves all things fiction, from Stephen King to Shannon Hale. She reads it all.
Visit her webpage at:

    Book Review

Reviewed by Melinda Hills for Readers' Favorite

When pain and despair seem insurmountable, Alisa Callahan chooses suicide. Right away, however, she discovers that she did not make a good choice because she does not get welcomed into heaven and the loving arms of her Gram and best friend, Natty. Instead, she has to redeem herself and that leads Alisa to the same feelings of insecurity and hopelessness she had in life. Reluctant Guardian by Melissa Cunningham relates the task Alisa needs to fulfill in order to be redeemed and have a chance to get to heaven and enjoy the everlasting peace she thought she would find. Acting as the guardian for Brecken Shaefer, a teenager with plenty of troubles of his own, is not the easy job Alisa thought it would be. In fact, this assignment leads both Alisa and Brecken to the gates of hell where they face demons trying to steal their souls. For a girl who always took the easy way out, is there any hope of success?

Reluctant Guardian by Melissa Cunningham casually but clearly portrays not only the anguish that leads a young girl to suicide, but also the devastating effect this event has on the entire family. Without preaching, there is a message about salvation and redemption and the choices that can have a dramatic effect on the eventual outcome of every life. It is easy to feel Alisa’s doubts and joys, wondering with each new scene whether she will be successful or not in her role as Brecken’s guardian. With some interesting twists and surprises, this is a story well worth reading.


Thank heavens I read this book! I’ve been in such a reading flunk lately and can’t seem to find an interesting enough book that keeps my attention. I’ve been looking for a book that made me excited to read. Something that I would be so engrossed with, that I would stay up late into the early morning to read. This book is exactly what I needed!

Alisa Callahan was a sixteen year old girl. She had a mother, a father, and two brothers who loved her. She had so much in her life but sometimes, life isn’t what it’s all cracked up to be and is too much for some people to handle. And sometimes, giving up seems to be the right choice….at that time. But it’s not.

Killing herself to escape the pain, guilt, and sorrow she was left with after her grandmother and best friend, Natty, died, Alisa finds herself in a magical place she believes to be heaven. But she can’t enter because she killed herself. Not realizing that she took the easy choice, and not the right choice out, she learns there is a chance to redeem herself. A chance to make up for killing herself. A chance to one day be with Natty and her grandmother in heaven.

Her task? Become a guardian for a human boy on earth. Easy enough, right? Wrong. You see, the boy Alisa needs to guard isn’t an ordinary human. He’s special. But it’s those special gifts that can ruin Alisa’s dream of entering heaven. And it’s those exact gifts that will stir up feelings between the two and start something beautiful, yet, complicated.

Brecken Shaefer is Alisa’s charge. He is struggling to support both his little sister’s and himself. His father is never there and rarely helps and his mother is gone. Feeling so alone, he finds no comfort in the guardians that keep getting sent to him. That is, until they send Alisa. Somehow he knows she is different than the previous guardian’s. She’s special somehow. But when secrets about Alisa’s past and death come to the surface, will he be strong enough to accept that part of her life and try to make it work between them? Or is he destined to always feel and be alone?

Something I liked about the story was all the lessons Alisa learned. There was so many, but the one that will always stay with me is forgiveness. Forgiveness is the key to healing. Without it, you can never, ever, truly find peace. You will wander around with that hate, those feelings of hurt, and the only person you will hurt is yourself and the people around you. It’s a lesson I personally struggle with in my life but after reading this book…I’m reconsidering many things in my life. You can say that this book was a wake-up call for me. I love books that I can connect to on a personal level. This book was really relatable and the different topics they touch among were well written and touching. The plot was interesting, very funny at times, and beautifully written. Very unique and unlike other books I have read before. I loved everything about this book and look forward to reading more for the author.

Oh, and the ending to the book seriously made me cry. I’m so hoping that there is going to be a book two because if there’s not, I’m going to be sad. I need to know what’s going to happen next after that ending!

I recommend this book to people who are looking for a book with—humor, adventure, a bit of action, romance, and suspense. It’s an amazingly brilliant book and I think that everyone, both male and female, will like this book!

Some of my favorite quotes:

“I’m not going to say goodbye.”

“Getting lost in a good book sounds like heaven. And if I can’t live in heaven, I’ll live in la la land instead.”

“Maybe hell is a quiet place that slowly drives you insane with the need for sound.”

“Your first and biggest mistake is your taste in girls,” I state, walking behind them, my hands clasped behind my back. It makes me feel very therapist-like.”

“You think I’m se-xy. You want to kii-iiss me,” he sings, the asinine grin still on his face.

Jon Messenger

When I first heard the premise for this book, I wanted to read it. Anytime a book starts with a protagonist committing suicide, you have my attention! I have to admit that this book absolutely lived up to my expectations.

Melissa Cunningham spins a fascinating story following a young woman after her death, as she passes through purgatory on her path toward redemption. Melissa's purgatory and even the seedy version of black, tar-filled hell that she created are phenomenal. It was creepy following the main character into Soul Prison, watching tortured souls trying to move while coated in viscous tar.

As if the story wasn't good enough on its own, the ending was truly incredible. The climax built quickly to a battle you just won't believe until you read it.

This story earned five stars from me for being a great read from cover to cover. Well done, Melissa! I can't wait for more from this author!

Savannah Mae

This book, "Reluctant Guardian" by Melissa J. Cunningham couldn't end any other way, but it's the best ending to book that I have ever read. Alisa is a young woman who has a lot of problems. After looking a few loved ones and having a very painful past she decides that she can't live with herself anymore. Believing that death would be a better choice and she will finally have peace she kills herself. She finds out that death isn't all it's cracked up to be and is given a chance at redemption: to become a guardian and save someone from themselves. She doesn't want to in the beginning, but she will do anything to get her redemption.

Brecken is a boy with many gifts. His life is full of pain and misery. He can communicate with guardians and see the evil shadows that have been following him around for years. When he meets Alisa he is taken with her, but refuses to accept her help and wants to do things his own way.

"Reluctant Guardian" by Melissa J. Cunningham was not only gripping but it filled my heart with compassion for these characters. It is the perfect story for young adults. It teaches readers that our actions affect everyone around us. It was well written, and has an easy to follow plot. The characters are relatable and well developed throughout the story. This book tugged at my heart from the first page to the ending sentence.

Doug Ellsworth

Every once in a while you come across a great book that you cannot put down. I read this book in one day and enjoyed every page. I cannot wait to read the sequel hoping it comes out soon.

Loved the cover, and the reason I purchase most books!

Kristi's Reviews

When I first heard the title, I thought this was going to be another paranormal romance. Since I got the book from the publisher for an honest review, I was going to read it so that I give it the honest review that the author deserves.
I had to keep the tissues out for the first several paragraphs. This book deals with something that many parents might be able to relate to with having teenagers that are depressed.
Alisa had been dealing with many things in her teenage life. She is depressed and suicidal. Her family is just hoping that she will get out of her funk soon, but in the end the depression takes over. Alisa ends up killing herself (tears).
She gets to another place after her death. When she gets there, she is told that her ideas are not how it works.
To redeem herself and to be able to spend time with the people she thought she would be able to spend it with, she takes the assignment as a guardian.
She is sent to earth to guard Brecken...
Alisa and Brecken learn many things during their time together. They battle demons both within their selves and physically.
This is an amazing book. I am so glad that I had the opportunity to be able to read this story. I seriously had tears in my eyes in the beginning. I hope that Melissa Cunningham is going to continue on this story! It is worth the five stars and more!!

Deborah B

Have you ever read a book that touched you so deep and it hit so close to home that it made it hard to write a review? Well that is what happened when I read Reluctant Guardian by Melissa Cunningham. I had to take a step back and clear my head before I could get near the keyboard. This was an awesome book and even though it is meant for YA, I think people of all ages would enjoy it.
This book really shows how our individual decisions can affect and change all of those around us. Reluctant Guardian was a very apt name for this book. Alisa sure did not want to be a guardian for Brecken. She does find, eventually, that it is not as bad as it seems. Do not be surprised when you find yourself wanting to slap this guardian upside the head…. She is kind of hardheaded. This book covers several important topics. The teen suicide and depression being the ones that most stood out to me. This is one story that you will find difficult to put down. I give it 5 stars*****. When a story is so good that it is difficult to write a review, it deserves all of the stars it can get.

VampireLovingDork "AKA Ne

Well this book has been sitting in my TBR pile for a while now and all I can say is WHAT ON EARTH WAS I THINKING???

Incredibly well written and a totally unique take on life, death and what could be beyond. The characters are so real my heart was breaking for them.

Touching on subjects so often shied away from in YA books this author does an incredible job of mixing in the paranormal with real teenage issues.

A well deserved 5 stars from me. Amazing!!! V""V


This is a flawlessly written take on the afterlife. It puts forward some original ideas mixed in with the traditional producing a well-rounded book that a lot of people will enjoy. My favourite part was the ending, and I don't mean that I was happy it ended. I mean the ending was brave and not what I expected.

mbfarrer "night owl"

Not considering myself a fan of paranormal romance, I was very surprised that I couldn't put this book down. While my students were reading, I would be deep in "the zone" with Alisa--at once frustrated and then cheering her on!

Andrea W

Reluctant Guardian is the tale of a girl who commits suicide, thinking her problems will be over, only to find her afterlife is rife with more issues than she had in life. A story where forgiving those who have done major harm and understanding how important your life is to all those around you are major themes, the romance between Alisa and her charge Brecken still takes center stage. The romance is clean and well done. This book is violent, though it is written well, and deals with some mature themes, so I would recommend it for 16 and up. A true page turner that kept me up well past my bedtime.

Kristen @ Pretty Little P

This book was a crazy roller coaster, and I don't think I was tall enough to ride it. The emotions that this book draws out are intense, and I loved it. Cunningham is skillful at capitalizing on human emotions and weaving them into her book seamlessly. You're left just as invested in the story as the characters.

The world building is so well thought out. You are transported into the afterlife of the main character, and Cunningham presents her version well enough that you're immediately immersed. The background put into the story is stand-out, also. As you near the end and the story begins to unravel at a suiting pace, you realize just how thought out Melissa's writing is.

The premise of this book was completely new to me, and I loved reading this book because of that. Before reading this one, I had been pretty unsatisfied with the books I'd been reading as of late. But Reluctant Guardian easily kept away the reading slump that was trying to creep up on me.

The characters are fresh and new. Instead of being annoyingly flawed or pristine and perfect, they seemed like "normal" people to me. I came to care for and worry about Alisa. She was my favorite, and her thoughts really reached out to me.

Reluctant Guardian deals with some heavy stuff. Suicide, criminal activity, demonic cults; this book has it all. But I think that the way that Cunningham presents the story and unfolds it, this book is broad enough for the teen audience as well as older fans of the YA genre. I'd recommend it in a heartbeat to YA paranormal romance fans.

Holly Kelly

I just finished reading this book and I must say, I loved it!!! I was drawn into the story immediately and couldn't put it down until I'd finished it. I've always been curious about what happens after you die, what that would look like. I also wondered about suicide. What happens to someone who takes their own life? Is there no hope for them?

Knowing that this was a story about the afterlife journey of a girl who commits suicide, I was a bit nervous about how it would be portrayed. I hoped it wouldn't show an appealing result. I would hate to have this story help convince an impressionable teen to commit suicide. But it doesn't do that. On the contrary, this author shows all aspects of the results--the tearing apart of the family left behind, the regret of the main character for her act, the restitution she has to pay to get to heaven, and the regret that she will never experience the joys that living a full life can bring. This book paints a vivid picture that was completely believable to me. Not only that, but the characters seemed so real, so human--even the no-so-human ones. Be prepared to cry, laugh, and fall in love with this story. This is a book that I will insist that my own kids read. It is a good lesson on consequences and not giving up. This character has to fight hard for her happy ending.

Erica Keifer

In Reluctant Guardian, Melissa Cunningham tackles the challenging and sensitive topic of suicide and what life might be like for spirits on the "other side," as well as what life might be like for loved ones on earth. Her vivid descriptions create poignant scenes that at times made me cry, and at other times, cringe in fear. Her writing allowed me to see the spirit worlds she described, and I appreciated the thought-provoking insight that I gathered throughout the book. I enjoyed watching the bond form between her two main characters and felt in awe of the unique and tender storyline. I'm looking forward to the sequel of Reluctant Guardian!

Sarah Wiser

Great from the start! I start a lot of books and don't finish them because they don't grab me, but this book keeps you wanting to know more. What is going to happen? You just have to keep reading to find out. Interesting and different plot. Good ending that gets you excited about the next book. Loved it!


Once I started this book, I didn't want to stop! It's filled with twists and unexpected turns that keeps your attention! The second book couldn't come out fast enough! Great work!

Verneen Summers

When I first came across this book I was unsure if I would actually like it. Even though the reviews were mostly good, the synopsis didn't fully convince me this was a novel I would enjoy ... I was 100% wrong cause this is a novel I LOVE !!!

The story centers around a suicide victim name Alisa who is sent back earth to temporally guard a person as a repayment for taking her life. Her charge; Breckan is nothing like she expects. Handsome, and mysterious with a bad boy vibe she instantly doesn't like him. However Breckan has his own special abilities which causes tension between him and Alisa. They both are battling destructive demons and secrets of their past as they ultimately fall in love.

A great story told in a great perspective. I wasn't to pleased at the fast track way they fell in love especially because the dislike between them was so strong. I felt like the love that was developed between them was rushed and unreal. But because it young adult I get it however. Alisa's character development and growth was well written. The author wrote magic when she created her. I also loved the relevant references she used throughout the book because it's easy to feel like you've read a story similar to this before. The mention of a certain shirtless werewolf that lives in Forks was well placed. I'm recommend this novel if you love a great story, a forbidden love, or you need some inspiration. The authors way of tackling a growing issue of teen suicide and the issues related to it was beautifully created and written.


This was a really good book and also a teaches a lesson about not committing suicide. I was surprised when I started to read this about how much it was talking about suicide and its consequences. I think that Alisa learned the hard way that taking your own life leaves those you love hurting. She chooses to become a guardian, all the while still having an arrogant attitude about life. Then she meets her ward and dislikes him a lot, she is even rude to him. When Brecken sees Alisa, he is cruel to her but he knows there is something different about her than the other spirits he has met. As they get to know each other they start to care about each other. When Alisa finally admits that she has fallen in love with Brecken she is in a lot of trouble. There are so many things that will shock you in this story, you should read it.

L. Jenkins "Laurie-J"

I loved this book! Alisha dies then wakes up in an unusual purgatory. Wanting nothing more than to join her beloved grandmother and BFF in Heaven she soon discovers that her decision to end her own life has unexpected consequences. Alisha learns some hard lessons as the story progresses and I enjoyed watching her ponder her condition and navigate the events that conspire to help her understand the gravity of her unenviable situation.
The author has constructed an imaginative afterlife populated with a cast of diverse characters in a community that is unlike anything else I have ever read. I found the breezy style of writing charming even as it led me to some thoughtful contemplation of my own concerning life and death.
This book was given to me in exchange for my honest review


Great book!! In a sea of young adult books, this one stands out with a new and original plot and characters you will come to love. The author takes what could be a difficult subject and not only does a wonderful job exploring it, but makes it into a fantastic story you won't want to put down! Cant wait for the sequel.

Robin C

This was an amazing story from the first word. I couldn't put it down, and I sincerely hope that Melissa writes about what happens next...there are SO many possibilities for these characters! Thank you for a wonderful read, Melissa...I look forward to many, many more!


I had no idea how this book would make me feel for Alisa. I went back and forth with her, feeling for her as she was faced with paths to take and decisions to make.

Ms. Cunningham writes with clarity, realism in terms of teen characters, and great imagery.

Deborah Nasca

This book was awesome, very well written. The story line is being to unhappy with life and losses, and where do you go when you commit suicide and how you work your way to heaven. This is a must read you will really enjoy it.

Sarah Bird

I was deeply touched by this book. I found myself crying more then I ever have while reading a book shaking my head in understanding.
Thank you for putting this story on paper and sharing it. <3 <3!!

Cindy Fong

What an interesting premise. You commit suicide but have to help other people stay on their path. The relationship between Alisa and Brecken is great. I hope there is more to their story as I didn't want it to end.


I was surprised that this book was free. I loved every twist and turn. It gives you a whole new aspect on the afterlife.

Kathy Fuller

I do hope there will be a book number three. This was a great book. I read it in one day. Please write more!

C. Bass

A simple, sweet story with a fantasy twist about a guardian from heaven that falls in love with her charge.


Really enjoyed this book!! Hopefully there is a contiuation of it!!


I couldn't put it down, What a great book! Nothing like I have ever read before. So well written! You will simply fall in love with these characters. I definitely recommend this as a must read!