Ghost Time

Book review by
Joe Applegate, Common Sense Media
Ghost Time Book Poster Image
Daring and confusing story about love and time.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Meant to entertain, not educate.

Positive Messages

Confronted with false sex videos of herself, 15-year-old Thea endures by holding on to what she knows: that she is basically a good and worthy person, who loves and is loved by another.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Thea is an interesting, complex character, but not really a role model. Cam helps Thea restore her sense of self-worth, but he has some troubling secrets od his own.


Blood is found in the car of a character who has disappeared. Thea, the heroine, becomes enraged at the breakup of her parents and destroys the furnishings of her bedroom. Before she meets her boyfriend, Cam, she's treated for incidents of cutting herself.


An unsupervised teen party leads to nudity. Thea, the 15-year-old narrator, describes passionate sex with her boyfriend; in one scene she's naked. Casual sex among her schoolmates is implied. Various sex tapes figure in the plot, but they are not explicitly described.


The narrator, a 15-year-old artistic outsider at school, uses all the four-letter words when under stress. Not stressed, she uses such language as: "Here I am, sticking my a-- out ... showing the whole world my crack."


Everywhere there are brand names, Coors beer, Flickr the photo site, bands and songs. But the intent is less commercial than it is to get inside the mind of an artistic and somewhat cynical 15-year-old who's obsessed with cultural references.  

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

The prevalent drug is alcohol. Thea, the artistic teen heroine, disapproves of binge drinking, even while her high school seems to abound with it. She says, "watching a bunch of junior and senior girls chugging vodka and Red Bull is far from cool." 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that the convoluted plot of Ghost Time, a fantasy with a paranormal element, involves 15-year-old narrator-protagonist Thea being exposed to shame when she appears in sex videos that go viral on the Internet. She knows the incidents never actually happened (and they are not explicitly described), but the emotional charge of the story derives from episodes in which a feisty teen faces nightmares of confusion. Her rage and self-cutting after the breakup of her parents might make some young readers uneasy. Thea uses all the four-letter words when under stress, and some crude language, like "ass," when she's not. There's teen drinking, some nudity, and Thea describes passionate sex with her boyfriend.

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What's the story?

Artistic, 15-year-old Thea is thrown into confusion when Cam, her math-genius boyfriend, disappears. From that moment, the story, narrated by Thea, alternates forward and backward in time. Cam's theory, that time is a code that can be hacked, appears to be coming true, as past events are shown to change and disjoin from the present. Thea's love for Cam grounds her sufficiently to hope for his return.


Is it any good?

With chapters alternating between past and present, some readers might like the reality-bending aspect of GHOST TIME;  others may find it confusing. The plot turns on whether artistic Thea will be reunited with her nerdy boyfriend, who disappears for reasons unknown.

The first in a trilogy, this installment leaves many mysteries unresolved and might lose some readers before the sequels appear. The story grows stronger as it reaches deeper into Thea's past, fraught with self-cutting, and the healing she achieves through the love of her first boyfriend.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the notion that time is not a fixed entity. If you could reach into your own past and change one thing, what would it be?

  • Cutting is sometimes explored in teen novels. Does Ghost Time give you insight into how someone could be moved to harm herself?

  • Do you find the structure of going back and forth in time effective or confusing?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love fantasy and romance

Themes & Topics

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