Charlotte Usher is friendless. She wants to be noticed, but her classmates, including handsome, popular Damen Dylan, don’t know she’s alive. And then she chokes to death. Charlotte has unfinished business, though, and she ends up in Dead Ed with other teenage ghosts. She is sure that going to the Harvest Ball with Damen will resolve her issues, but that’s a challenge, since she’s dead. .
Charlotte is pathetic, but she isn’t sympathetic. She admires popular and beautiful Petula, whose main personality traits are vanity, viciousness, and super-sized ego. She uses her ghostly invisibility to stalk Damen, and she even convinces Petula’s defiant goth punk sister, Scarlet, to let Charlotte possess her so she can use Scarlet’s body to get close to Damen. But Damen turns out to have a little more going on under the surface than the standard popular jock, and Scarlet actually starts to like him herself.
Readers with a dark sense of humor will enjoy ghostgirl. Occasionally subtle, often sharp, and in places, almost slapstick (Scarlet’s bizarre tryout for the cheerleading team while possessed comes to mind), ghostgirl has subversive appeal. The story is seeded with descriptive details and contemporary references teens will appreciate. The book’s design is unusual and visually striking, with a “ghostgirl” in silhouette on the cover, and elaborately framed epigraphs at the beginning of each chapter. Hurley is also an independent filmmaker, and as the events speed along, with acrobatics, car accidents, and ghostly antics taking center stage, it’s easy to see that the book could translate well to the silver screen. The growing depth of Scarlet and Damen’s characters, and the awkward beginnings of their friendship are probably the most interesting part of the story, but it is Charlotte’s first attempts at real friendship that take the story beyond satire. Ghostgirl is not a book that needed a sequel, but Hurley managed to leave a door open for one, and ghostgirl: Homecoming is due out this summer. Recommended for high school library media centers and public library teen collections.
Contains: mild sex, lighthearted treatment of death, destructive behavior, possession.
Review by Kirsten Kowalewski