Saturday, October 16, 2021

Review: Ghost Girl by Ally Malinenko

by Ally Malinenko
Release Date: August 10, 2021
2021 Katherine Tegen Books
Kindle Edition; 288 Pages
ISBN: 978-0063044609
Audiobook: B08
Genre: Fiction / Juvenile Fiction / Ghost
Source: Review copy from publisher
3.5 / 5 Stars
Zee Puckett loves ghost stories. She just never expected to be living one.

It all starts with a dark and stormy night. When the skies clear, everything is different. People are missing. There’s a creepy new principal who seems to know everyone’s darkest dreams. And Zee is seeing frightening things: large, scary dogs that talk and maybe even . . . a ghost.

When she tells her classmates, only her best friend, Elijah, believes her. Worse, mean girl Nellie gives Zee a cruel nickname: Ghost Girl.

But whatever the storm washed up isn’t going away. Everyone’s most selfish wishes start coming true in creepy ways.
My Thoughts
Ghost Girl is one of those books to which I was drawn simply because I loved the title.  Who could refuse a title like that? There is also something really appealing about juvenile fiction cover titles as well, and this one is really effective as the more I looked at it, the more I saw.  I am not one to be drawn to a book by a cover title as I usually tend to chose them by the content, but I do admire the artistry and the talent that do go into them.  As someone who can't draw anything more artistic than stick figures, I have a huge respect for the effort that goes into a lot of these cover pages.  
Zee is a fun character, but I can't honestly say that she stands out from any other middle-grade character that I have read in this genre.  As usual, she is the one who stands out in school for telling odd stories and coming from a family that has some issues so the other students don't quite know what to make of her situation.  Because she doesn't follow the societal rules, she doesn't really fit into any social group at school and is the target of the usual group of popular girls.  Standard stuff, really.  I didn't always root for her character as she had a tendency to be mean and spiteful at times, which in a funny way, I kind of liked as it reflected more the reality of the situation of someone who is being picked on a lot of the time.  She definitely had a chip on her shoulder and I do wish the author had developed this a bit more through her relationships with her peers.  
I thought the writing style was fine for a juvenile fiction novel as there is a fine balance between detail and story, and you don't necessarily want to bog down young readers with too much detail.  While I thought there were a lot of gaps in the story, and some of it left holes that were not fully explained, I'm not sure a young reader would necessarily pick up on those.  The story was not original by any means, but it was fun, and the author took the time to place the importance on family and friendship, running themes throughout the book.  And while Zee could be spiteful, she did get called out for her behaviour, and there were definitely consequences to her actions, which I liked.   

I will be honest and say that I am a terrible judge of creepiness in a book as I have always loved creepy, even as a kid.  The story does revolve around a trickster who promises people whatever their hearts desire and Zee is one of the few people who is immune to his tricks.  I have years behind me reading horror, fantasy, and ghost stories, so this premise is not original but for a kid who is seven or eight? This might be right up their alley if they are looking for something that is creepy, but won't send them to mom and dad's room for the next month.  

Ghost Girl was a solid tween entry, and I did enjoy the book.  Yes, there were gaps in the story, and some young readers may pick up on the lack of development or the brushing over of those ideas, but I think for the most part, young readers will enjoy the characters and how they eventually worked together to save their town.  I definitely think this book will appeal to those young readers who are venturing into this genre as it's not too scary and the story, and the characters, are relatable.