Saturday, March 19, 2022

Review: Riley's Ghost by John David Anderson

by John David Anderson
Release Date: January 11, 2022
2022 Walden Pond Press
Kindle Edition; 368 Pages
ISBN: 978-0062985972
ASIN: B09292B6LX
Audiobook: B095PYJ3ZC
Genre: Fiction / Juvenile / Ghost
Source: Review copy from publisher

3 / 5 Stars

Summary
It feels like she's been on her own since sixth grade, when her best friend, Emily, ditched her for the cool girls. Girls who don't like Riley. Girls who decide one day to lock her in the science closet after hours, after everyone else has gone home.

When Riley is finally able to escape, however, she finds that her horror story is only just beginning. All the school doors are locked, the windows won't budge, the phones are dead, and the lights aren't working. Through halls lit only by the narrow beam of her flashlight, Riley roams the building, seeking a way out, an answer, an explanation. And as she does, she starts to suspect she isn't alone after all.
 
My Thoughts
Riley's Ghost was a slow-moving ghost story that deals with Riley's tribulations through middle school.  Although she is being bullied at school, she does have some anger issues and her behaviour towards other students as well as her parents and I was interested to see how this would be dealt with by the author.  I did feel like the things that happened to Riley were quite realistic, but I wanted to see how the ghost story would figure into all of it, and this is where I was somewhat disappointed.  
 
First of all, I wasn't sure what to think about Riley throughout the story.  That she was prickly didn't bother me as she was being bullied and that can so often be a defence mechanism, but I really feel like her issue with Emily wasn't resolved in a satisfactory way as we never learned why Emily chose to hang out with a different group of friends.  Riley did demonstrate some poor behaviour and I was worried that this would not be taken seriously in the book. So I did appreciate Riley's growth as she reflected on some of her actions throughout the book and how she caused some of the problems, especially the arguments with her parents.  I also liked how the author put an emphasis on how hurtful words can be to children, especially when used thoughtlessly. 
 
I normally love this author, but I did find this book to be somewhat slow, and I wasn't a huge fan of the ghost story as I felt it was 'preachy'.  You know, the kind where it was all your fault because you abandoned me, and the lesson was to always stick by your friends no matter what was happening. I get the message, and I think kids will as well, but not sure I like the delivery.  However, creepy was always my thing, even as a kid, so being locked in school after hours would have definitely been creepy for me.
 
Verdict
Riley's Ghost was a pretty good portrayal of middle-school kids and their behaviours, and I definitely liked the added bonus of a ghost to teach lessons.  I did find the overall ghost story to be somewhat slow and the overall theme, while good, did not necessarily address the issues: it was more of a lesson about sticking with your friends no matter what happens and there is always more to the problem than that.   Personally, as a kid, I would not have found this creepy enough, but I probably would have liked it quite a bit.  For those readers who are looking for something that is not too creepy, this one is probably for you. 

 


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