A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Comeuppance and lessons abound for both live and dead students.
Violence & Scariness
Charlotte chokes to death on a gummy bear. Mentions of how other teens died, including car wrecks. A chandelier falls on people; they're unharmed. The dead have some gross attributes (maggots, exposed brains, etc.).
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
A dead Charlotte watches Damen undress and gets into bed with him; he senses her presence and screams. Some kissing in a girl's bedroom while the parents aren't home. Talk in Dead Ed about periods.
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Insults can get pretty salty, especially between Scarlet and her sister. A fake note is read in class implicating two jocks; it says "I love sticking my hands between your thick, hot, sweaty legs when you hike the football at me." Once, "f--k" is spelled out as a cheer. Plus "t-ts," "s--t," "ass," "dickhead," "whore," "blow me."
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Products & Purchases
You could create a really long playlist with all the bands mentioned here (at least 50), whose lyrics are often quoted as well. A big plug for the movie Delicatessen. Celebrities and snack foods are also name-checked.
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.
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.
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