Saturday, November 6, 2010

The Ghosts of Ashbury High

The Ghosts of Ashbury High by Jaclyn Moriarty (NY: Scholastic, 2010).

As in The Year of Secret Assignments, Jaclyn Moriarty uses multiple perspectives to excellent effect in The Ghosts of Ashbury High. Manipulation occurs on many levels here. First, the novel largely takes the form of different students' answers to the essay portion of the HSC (Higher School Certificate in Australia) exam plus some IMs, blogs, meeting minutes, and letters. There are two main essays--one on gothic fiction and one on ghost stories, but the format is first person memoir for both. Because it's fiction, the reader can't be sure how much is true and how much is imaginary, which makes the manipulation all the more interesting. The basic plot line is clear: two new students have entered Ashbury High on scholarship from the nearby public high school, Brookfield. How they won the scholarships is itself a mystery as the boy and girl have just been released from juvenile detention. No one knows why they were there, and the scholarship committee was divided about awarding them the scholarships. Slowly, everyone learns more about the mysterious couple, their lives, and deep love.

The eponymous ghosts are figurative and literal. Something or someone seems to be haunting the school. There are noises, odd occurrences, the death of student long ago. Then there are the new students, Riley and Amelia, initially barely shadows at the school but looming larger and larger in every narrative. Eventually all is explained, but the ending is surprising!

Nicely crafted novel though a bit long and repetitious at 480 pages. Mild sexual content, language. Good for ages 12 or 13 and up.

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