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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Many details about where the story takes place, mostly near Toronto Island Park and the Toronto islands on the Canadian side of Lake Ontario. Facts about important people who lived there, including tribes that populated the area first, lifeboat captain William Ward, and journalist and Father of the Confederation George Brown. Some history of the area, including the use of fever sheds in 1847 where many Irish immigrants died of typhus. Mentions of some battles, such as the Battle of the Plains of Abraham, and famous paintings that depict wartime such as Washington Crossing the Delaware and The Death of General Wolfe. Facts about lighthouses historically and now (and some fiction about their ability to zap ghosts).
Strong messages about friendship and bravery, facing loss, and the power of forgiveness to help people (in this case, both alive and dead) move on. A thirst for power is the most destructive force, while empathy and understanding are the most restorative. Many reminders of how history affords exciting discoveries, even without the ghosts to connect with.
Positive Role Models
Gabe is a history buff and a good, loyal friend to Yuri and soon Callie and Rebecca as well. He will do anything to help Rebecca fight a wicked ghost and save her father, and risks his summer job and eventually his life to vanquish the spirit. One of his toughest tasks is accepting the loss of his father and dealing with anger he feels toward him. Ghosts he meets who are set free by the power of forgiveness help him realize how he can begin to heal.
Yuri and his whole family are Russian immigrants and speak with accents. Callie is half-Indian from Goa. Gabe's mother divorced his father before he died. After Rebecca's mother died of fever, she was raised by her father. Ghosts include many from the local tribes, with discussion about how they were never given choices or a voice in government by the settlers and a declaration that they would not move on from being ghosts until they saw their people finally given that voice. Gabe's mother is a doctor. Gabe is a fantastic cook like his father, who was a chef.
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Violence & Scariness
The most wicked ghost is a true monster with grotesque, bloated features and many flailing limbs -- and at one point, an attacking, disembodied hand. Many descriptions of the creature devouring other ghosts to get stronger. A flashback shows him throwing two characters off a lighthouse, including a main character, Rebecca, who is a ghost. Some skirmishes and even all-out battles with wicked ghosts. Live characters use bright lights as weapons, enlist the help of good ghosts. One good ghost blasts off the heads of wicked ghosts with his dueling pistol. Injuries to live characters include a sprained wrist, bruises, and a sapping of energy with ghost touch. Ghosts set fires and cause traffic accidents and deaths in hospitals. Talk of the death of Gabe's father months before, hit by a car while staring at his phone. Talk of how many ghosts died, from drowning in a shipwreck, fever, heart attack while swimming, from a duel, from fire, and more.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
A kiss and talk of dating.
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"Hell" once or twice and one "freaking."
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Products & Purchases
Brief mention of Smarties candy and Brio, an Italian soda.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Quick mentions that Yuri's mother smokes, that older women were drinking wine in a salon of a grand house, and that Rebecca's father sometimes drank too much when he was alive.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Ghostlight is a fantasy by Kenneth Oppel (The Boundless, Inkling) that's ideal for kids who like ghost stories and history. Kids really have to like the scary stuff, because although there are good ghosts in the story -- including Rebecca, one of the main characters -- the most wicked ghost is a true monster with grotesque, bloated features and many flailing limbs and, at one point, an attacking, disembodied hand. There are many descriptions of the creature devouring other ghosts to get stronger. A flashback shows him throwing two characters off a lighthouse, including Rebecca. There are skirmishes and even all-out battles with wicked ghosts. Live characters use bright lights as weapons and enlist the help of good ghosts. One good ghost blasts off the heads of wicked ghosts with his dueling pistol. Injuries to live characters include a sprained wrist, bruises, and a sapping of energy with ghost touch. There's talk of the death of the main character's father months before, hit by a car while staring at his phone, and much talk of how other ghosts died. Ghostlight isn't all about ghosts, however. Nice friendships emerge between diverse characters, and strong points are made about the importance of history and the powers of forgiveness and understanding.
Is It Any Good?
This teen ghost hunter tale set near Toronto is stuffed full of paranormal action and seasoned with local history and solid friendships. While the balance may be tipped too heavily toward nonstop action in the final third of the story, it's still a fun ride. It will remind readers of the end of any Marvel movie, where the villain gets more and more wicked and Just. Won't. Die. -- except Viker, the grotesque, power-hungry, many armed monster in Ghostlight, is dead already, but still. Before the creature's overlong send-off, the story takes many turns, and four friends follow one clue after another to find a ghostlight that can destroy him. They visit lighthouses, graveyards, seances, and shipwrecks and meet some other fascinating ghosts along the way.
While Viker gets stronger, so do the friendships of the characters fighting him. Gabe is already close friends with Yuri, a budding inventor who works a summer job fixing bumper cars at an amusement park. Then they meet Callie, a ghost blogger, and Rebecca, a ghost who's determined both to save her father from Viker (who swallowed him -- yuck) and to experience a bit of modern life before she moves on. The four don't know the danger they're getting into, but they puzzle out one obstacle after another together, helped along by Yuri's cool inventions and Callie's journalistic instincts. They make a great ghost-fighting team. More time could have been spent with the teens facing less paranormal troubles, however. We hear of the stress Yuri's family endures as Russian immigrants and of Gabe's recent loss of his father, but those moments go by pretty fast. Perhaps there are more Ghostlight ghost stories to come, offering readers a better chance to enjoy many facets of these great characters.
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