Review: “Ghost,” Laura Cardinal

Pros: Plenty of wrinkles in the plot
Cons: One-dimensional characters; not advertised as YA; some ridiculous plot developments
Rating: 2 out of 5

Laura Cardinal’s Ghost is about a high school that seems to suddenly come down with a haunting. Just to make everything even crazier, a sort of force field goes up around the school. Anyone who was inside when it went up is trapped, but anyone who enters afterward can come and go as they please. A group of young ghost hunters makes it their business to figure out–and get rid of–the haunting.

 

There’s a problem I’ve noticed in the world of e-pubbed books: often times the descriptions or tags attached to books fail to match up with what the book really is. I don’t know why. Maybe the author just didn’t think of this other tag that’d be more appropriate. Maybe s/he thinks they’ll get more sales if they spin the book’s premise a certain way. There’s a problem with this, however. Maybe the book will get more sales, but the reviews are likely to be more negative. If you think you’re getting one kind of book and you end up with something else, you’re likely to feel a bit put off by that seeming bait-and-switch. Take Ghost, for example. I had to go back and look to make sure there was no “Young Adult” tag on this one, because it most certainly reads like a YA novel. Most of the characters are high school age–in particular the protagonist, Natalie. Much of the plot surrounding the ghostly visitations involves other high school students, bullying, cliques, etc.

As a technical note, there are some formatting problems in the Kindle book that make some of the pages difficult to read. Such as, words that have one letter per line
l
i
k
e

t
h
i
s
.

The characters in Ghost are very flat, one-note creatures. Nasty, bullying high school students are just that. Sweet, bubbly people are exactly that. Smarmy adults don’t have anything else going for them.

There’s one plot development partway through that ruined any last suspension of disbelief that I had. The Secretary of Defense shows up personally with Special Forces and the Secret Service in tow. I wish I was joking. The SoD mostly smirks and throws small kinks into the works. The nameless military grunts don’t do much more than glare at our erstwhile ghost hunters. And I don’t want to get into the numerous reasons why this wouldn’t happen in the first place and certainly wouldn’t happen in the manner in which it goes down.

I think as a YA novel this would make more sense–the wish fulfillment aspects of Natalie’s nascent supernatural abilities, getting the attention of powerful national figures, and the youth of all of the characters would seem less out-of-place. (Still not great, but at least familiar.) As an adult book it just doesn’t hold up.

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