Monday, 25 April 2011

review: The Ghost and the Goth

by Stacey Kade
Disney/Hyperion, 2010
young adult paranormal

The only thing worse than being dead is being dead and unable to move on to the afterlife. That's exactly Alona Dare's situation. The homecoming queen -- three years in a row, thank you very much -- is stuck as a ghost, and the only person who might be able to help her is Will Killian, for whom "unpopular" is an understatement. Being able to see, hear and touch ghosts is what's been putting Will into the psych ward half his whole life. Now, with Alona constantly nagging and a malevolent new ghost out to get him, graduating high school seems further than impossible.
The cover:

First impression? Perfect. The two models' uncomfortable expressions and proximity represent Alona and Will's situation wonderfully -- it's like they're forced to be so close to each other. Their attire match the characters to a T, and the see-through effect on the girl is actually done quite well. The fonts are a great finishing touch.

The book:

Told from two perspectives, Stacey Kade develops both Alona's and Will's characters extremely well. A few fantastic quotes IMO:
It wasn't "the" bus, obviously. The one that killed me was probably still being repaired or maybe decommissioned or whatever they do with vehicles that now have bad juju.
-- Alona, page 5
Alona Dare, queen of the insult-compliment. "Wow. Thanks. Anyone ever tell you you're good with people?"
She frowned. "No."
-- Will, page 90

Themes of family and, unexpectedly, lesbianism are explored in a refreshingly new fashion, although since both Alona and Will have such discombobulated families it's difficult at first to distinguish their families' problems. The paranormal aspect is dealt in a much more light tone, one that feels wholly original in the oversaturated YA market.

Adult characters like Principal Brewster and Dr. Miller, Will's psychiatrist, are a mite exaggerated in their actions; Brewster's violent, spastic tendencies and Miller's plan to sell a novel based on Will's ghost-seeing claims seem over-the-top. On the other hand, Alona's mother's case is presented convincingly, especially in the roundabout way it's linked to Alona's death.

Concepts of paranormal activity are explored with surprising depth. The book's atmosphere darkens gradually as the tension rises, making for a satisfyingly touching climax, but leaves readers with an ending as light and fun as the start. The Ghost and the Goth is a charming and sweet story whose sequel I can't wait to read.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5