A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that the main character chokes to death on a gummy bear at the very beginning and proceeds to meet other dead teens. While the mood stays pretty light and darkly humorous (think Beetlejuice), the language can get pretty salty, especially when insults are hurled between sisters. Also, expect plenty of plugs for bands, especially ones that go with the Goth-chic style this book aims for.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
High school outcast Charlotte Usher spends her whole summer plotting how to get crush Damen Dylan to notice her. On the first day back, she gets her wish in physics class when he's assigned as her lab partner -- only for her to die minutes later choking on a gummy bear. Attending Dead Ed and living in the dead dorm with other deceased teens do nothing to thwart Charlotte's designs on Damen, however, especially when she learns that a live person, the Goth younger sister of Damen's snotty girlfriend, can actually see and help her. But Charlotte doesn't know how much this help from the living hurts all dead students' chances of finally "seeing the light."
Is it any good?
With a Goth-chic book design and a popular Web site, GHOSTGIRL definitely puts style and dark humor first, but it's not without substance. Each chapter starts with a pithy paragraph about letting go, love, longing, regret -- heavy stuff. That is, right before it launches into shallow-seeming Charlotte's next clueless misadventure led by her one-track mind: Must get boy, alive or dead. This tunnel vision would get annoying if it weren't for other fun characters, like Piccolo Pam the dead guide, Scarlet the live Goth friend who gives Charlotte a "make-under," and Petula the delightfully unscrupulous sister (who gets hers, of course).
But in the end, Ghostgirl isn't quite as clever as it wants to be. With its mix of satire, deep thoughts, physical humor, and heart-tugging romance, it can seem like too much of a hodge-podge at times. And fans may want more than just a taste of dead teen culture -- there are plenty of unanswered questions about their powers, etc. But it's still lots of fun and the perfect complement to a late-night readathon with The Cure cued up on the iPod.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Charlotte's one-track mind. Why do you think it was so important to her to be popular and get the guy, even after death? When does her dedication get to be over the top? If you could see Charlotte like Scarlet could, would you change places with her temporarily? If so, what would you do in spirit form?