Wednesday, August 4, 2021

MG review of Ghost Girl by Ally Malinenko

Ghost Girl by Ally Malinenko
Format:  E-ARC 

Publisher:  Katherine Tegen Books 
Number of Pages:  288
Publishing:  August 10th, 2021
Source:  Review copy provided by Sabrina Kenoun from Spark Point Studio

Opening lines: "The storm that tore through Knobb's Ferry was unlike any that Zee Puckett had ever seen in all her eleven years."  

Zee lives with her older sister, Abigail in the quiet town of Knobb's Ferry, a place where nothing exciting ever really happens, that is until a storm wracks the town.  On the morning after the storm a few strange things start to happen, beginning with the school principal and a kindergarten teacher going missing.  When Zee's school is also cancelled because of the storm, she and her best friend, Elijah decide to go and hang out in one of their favorite places, the cemetery.  While exploring the coffins, Zee comes across a creepy dark shadow that morphs into a large wild animal, bigger than a dog with eyes so black and streaks of blood coming from them.  After surviving the scary dog attack and returning to school, Zee has her second mysterious encounter at a field trip to a library, where she meets a man named Paul while searching for a book, only to have him vanish.  When she is seen by her nemesis Nellie, talking to the man who is not there, she's given the nickname Ghost Girl.  Things start to take a turn into the macabre with the arrival of their new principal, Principal Scratch, a creepy man who's goal appears to be to help everyone in the town to get what they want most.  As the townspeople's wishes and desires begin to come true, Zee and Elijiah become concerned when their family  begins to behave in unusual, uncharacteristic ways.  Will they be able to uncover Principal Scratch's plans in order to save their family and themselves?

I was so ready to read something a little spooky and Ghost Girl hit all the right notes.  It's a very atmospheric kind of spooky, with the dark woods, mysterious enveloping fog, the cemetery and of course the dark stormy night.  Not to mention the scary dogs and ghosts that appear to Zee.  Yep all the elements for spooky.  Zee (11 yo) is an interesting character, and I really liked her relationship with her older sister Abigail (21 yo), who is put in charge of caring for her while their dad looks for work in another town.  I love how Zee likes reading Frankenstein over and over again, and loves telling scary stories.  Then there's Elijah, Zee's best friend who was by far my favorite character, partly because I had a best friend who was also a boy growing up, but also because I felt for his family situation.  Having a complicated home life with a mother who has a mental illness and a father that placed all these demands on him, belittling him because of his weight and his desire to have his son be an athlete.  I felt for his situation and think other kids could too.  Nellie even grew on me, even though she was bullying Zee in the beginning, her home life was also complicated.  However, I couldn't seem to buy into Elijah's and Nellie's romance, it happened way too quick, and I don't believe he would forgive Nellie's past bullying or let it slide like that.  I did like that Nellie redeemed herself by the end though.  

In addition to the spookiness, my favorite parts of the story would have to be the messaging that people are more complex than their initial appearance, more nuanced, and therefore we should never make assumptions based on popularity, money or trivial things.  It's important to see beneath the surface.   I also really loved the messaging about how words have power for good or can be hurtful.  How it's important not to stand by and watch someone be degraded or humiliated, to instead say something.  Even if it's just grabbing a teacher's attention.  Overall, this was a fun quick read with creepy and scary moments and a satisfying ending.  I'm hopeful there will be more stories with these characters.  Pair this with Nightbooks by J.A. White or perhaps The Turnkey of Highgate Cemetery by Allison Rushby.  

**A huge thank you to Sabrina Kenoun from Spark Point Studio for the E-ARC**           

1 comment:

  1. I'm not always a fan of spooky but this one sounds good, especially with the focus on that people are complex. How true that is!