Monday, September 7, 2009

Ghostgirl #1

Ghostgirl by Tonya Hurley (2008)

Charlotte Usher dies an ignominious death; she chokes on a gummy bear right after she gets paired up in Chemistry with the boy she's been crushing on. She spent all summer planning how she could get noticed--following a beautification program and working in the school office so she could have access to the boy's schedule and get in the same classes he was taking. She has felt ignored, invisible, and hoped to change that--be popular for a change--but didn't really get a chance.

Death wasn't much different for Charlotte. Hurley leaves out some important details, like why Charlotte has no family and even her age and year in school. Some of it can be inferred, but the lack of family does not get explained until the second book in the series! In fact, the plot doesn't really jell until Charlotte dies and ends up in Dead Education, or Dead Ed--a class for kids who have to pass a test to move on. At last Charlotte has some interactions with her peers! (But isn't it sad that they're all dead and have their own morose life tales?) They try to tell her to ignore her old life and get on with her death, but Charlotte still feels attached, as if there's a reason she needs to follow her old classmates' lives. Then she finds out that the goth younger sister, Scarlett, of the school's queen bee, Petula, can see her. That's unusual. Charlotte and Scarlett become friends--a first for Charlotte--and bond over their mutual disdain of Petula's selfish actions and immoral values. Charlotte even persuades Scarlett to help her switch places--via possession!--so Charlotte can enjoy some body time with her crush, Damen, who happens to be dating the nasty Petula. Charlotte's goal: to go to the Fall Ball with Damen.

In the end, Charlotte realizes that she can't have a relationship with a real boy, but she can help Scarlett, who has discovered that she and Damen have a lot in common.

In spite of the editorial gaffes, including the missing information mentioned above and numerous proofreading errors, this novel engages the reader. Charlotte's insecurities, while extreme, will resonate with teens who struggle with the same issues. Sexual innuendo, but no language or violence. Good for girls aged 12+/grades 7-9.

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