Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Ghosts of Ashbury High by Jaclyn Moriarty

by Jaclyn Moriarty
Arthur A. Levine books

Review copy received for Cybils consideration
This was one of the longest books we have ever read.

We don't mean by actual size, although it is a respectable 496 pages. We don't mean it's boring, either - it's quite intriguing, in fact. We mean it was long as in, there was so MUCH in it, we kept getting that nearing-the-end-of-the-story feeling, when it looks like things are going to be wrapped up tidily. Then we would realize there were still, say, a hundred pages to go.

Readers looking for a traditional ghost story will find the title misleading. Is there a ghost? Or more than one? Maybe. Sort of. Yes. No. There are many types of ghosts, you know? American teens may be put off at first by the format. Most of the book is written in the form of school essays and blog entries. One major essay assignment is supposed to be written in the style of old gothic novels, which leads to some very dramatic passages. Readers who aren't familiar with this style (or who don't bother to read the explanation) may wonder why everyone is suddenly so over the top. Once you get into the swing of things, however, the story draws you in to where you simply have to know what's going on - and don't even think of skipping to the end, you will just end up even more confused.

What amazed us about the book was how quickly the characters' voices became seperate in our minds. Each time the 'writer' changes, there is a heading with his or her name, but after a while we didn't need to read the heading to know who was talking. When your characters are all of similar ages and backgrounds, that can be hard to do, so a definite hats-off to Ms. Moriarty.

The way all the details come together (and at different intervals, not just the actual final ending) was also very well done. In the end (the actual final ending), things were wrapped up in nifty little packages, with some satisfying twists and a fair amount of humor. (The ghost! Who knew? We probably should have seen it, but...well, we didn't!) If nothing else, the whole book serves to remind us that we probably never see the whole picture on anything, and it's amazing how one tiny tidbit can completely reverse how we see any situation.

Do we recommend it? To individual readers, yes. If this description makes you intrigued rather than putting you off, you will probably love the book. To libraries? We're not sure. As we mentioned, fans of traditional ghost stories may not finish it. It's not a book for the masses. It is, however, a book for that small group of teens you have who want something outside the box, something that maybe takes a little effort and commitment from the reader, but promises great rewards at the end. If you are up to hand-selling it to those kids, and don't care if it doesn't get as many check-outs as Twilight, then by all means grab a copy! We give it a

4 out of 5.

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