Author: Tonya Hurley
Publisher: Little, Brown
With everything paranormal going around the YA market right now (Shiver, Vampire Academy, The Iron King), books like this have soared in popularity. While most of the paranormal books are hard-core romances and action-packed tension machines, there are a few that manage to be light and humorous. The concept of ghostgirl is just that. Something that can be appealing to a lot of teenagers, but is more focused on the funny than the hot-and-heavy smooching.
Charlotte Usher died just after physics class while choking on a gummy bear. Her blatant unpopularity was bad enough, but Death-By-Gummy-Bear? Now that’s just cruel and unusual punishment. While she was alive, Charlotte was invisible as it was. Her crush on the most popular boy in school was majorly unrequited, the popular girls never even batted an eye at her, and people seemed to forget she was even in the room. Being an actual ghost couldn’t be that much different, could it?
With her new status of ghost, Charlotte learns that even death comes with rules and schooling. She’s put in a classroom with a bunch of other ghost students. They learn about their various abilities as members of the spirit world, and the ultimate quest to moving on to a better place. Moving on just so happens to involve removing oneself from the living world as much as possible. Charlotte isn’t so ready to do that.
New found abilities and an overwhelming urge to get what she wants leads Charlotte to tether herself to the human world. With the help of goth-girl Scarlett and her ghostly form, she is going to try and get her crush to notice her once and for all. Even if it means going against the rules. Ghostgirl is a romp through the mind of a determined teenage ghost and her misplaced priorities involving love and popularity.
Charlotte is a confusing as a protagonist. On one hand, I enjoy her spunk and determination, and her dismal sense of humor. It’s dark but still manages to be cute, and it makes ghostgirl an addicting read. On the other hand, she borders a lot on TSTL (Too-Stupid-To-Live) with all of her antics. If ghostgirl was meant to be an essential parody on what’s going on in YA fiction, I could see Charlotte as more of an intelligent character because of the message her ignorance sends, but at face value her actions are just shallow and annoying. Younger teenagers may relate to them, but older ones will find some of the situations rather dumb.
Scarlett was much more my style. Her attitude is goth and cool, and she’s the polar opposite of her sister. All of the secondary characters are high-school clichés, but they still have really interesting humor along with it. When you look between the lines, you can see that some of them are really enforcing the idea of ghostgirl as a parody/commentary more than a literal story. For one, there is the AV kid who pretends to be mentally retarded because it’s easier for him to survive in high school. Or the girl who died because she only gave herself small cuts; never cutting deep enough for people to notice until she gave herself an infection. Also two randomly mentioned lesbian teachers. These characters are rather odd, because they are handled off-handedly. As if it happens all the time. In some ways, I can see how people would find characters like AV boy offensive – but at the same time, it’s a reality and a commentary. Teens often try to act dumber to fit in. More importantly, though, the characters are treated normally. Part of it is due to Charlotte’s single-mindedness, and the other part is, in my opinion, just showing them as normal people, which is a good thing.
Plot-wise, it’s the same combo of cliché and intelligence. Searching for popularity, getting the popular jock, and the two most unlikely people ending up together – all pretty standard for chick-lit. The ghost business, however, was much more creative, and nice to read about.
The writing style was described in a professional review as something that readers of Poe would like. It’s more breezy than that. Way more breezy. It still has a noir charm to it, and the overall affect is probably my favorite part of the book. It was light and fluffy darkness. If that makes any sense.
Ghostgirl was a very mixed bag for me. I really enjoyed the writing and reading the book as a whole. But, on thinking about it, it was rather confusing. It’s a book that is on the fence as to a parody or literal story, and I really have no idea which one it is. I like that it is basically a standalone book, but I’m still going to read the other two books because I did enjoy reading the first one. As a paranormal book, though, it’s pretty average.
Cover Comments: Little, Brown did an awesome job with this one. The book is rather narrow for my taste, but the stepback covers are really cool, and the design as a whole is very attractive to me.
Rating: 3.0 Stars
Copy: Received from Tonya’s publicist at Little, Brown (Thanks a bunch!)