The Ghost and the Goth (Book 1), by Stacey Kade
Release Date: June 2010
Received: Library book
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Alona Dare was the queen of the school until she accidentally stepped in front of a bus and died. Though that would seem to be the end of the story, it is only the beginning. Alona wakes up as a ghost and soon discovers Will, a boy she always wrote off as strange and not worth her time, can actually see her. Pushy and assertive, Alona convinces Will to help her figure out why she hasn't crossed over yet. In exchange, she offers to manage the cacophony of ghosts vying for Will's attention and help protect him from a particularly malignant spirit. A troubled friend, a mysterious accident, and parental issues help flesh out this light and sweet story.
Written in chapters alternating between Will and Alona's perspectives, readers get to know the characters' inner thoughts, feelings, and fears. Alona and Will have distinct voices and while Alona is supposed to be a mean girl, both characters are ultimately sympathetic and likable. There is an overarching supernatural problem that builds throughout the story, as well as real-world family and interpersonal issues the characters must deal with along the way. The supernatural problem is also a bit of a mystery, with numerous clues dropped through the story as to what is happening and who is behind it. The plot kept my attention, but the strength of this book lies more in the two main characters (their personalities and their chemistry) than in the plot.
The romance in this story is there, but it is very light and grows at a much more natural pace than the cheesy "undying love at first sight" that is becoming increasingly common in the YA genre. The framework of getting to know one another is laid in this book and I imagine their relationship will be explored more deeply in the sequel. While there is a sequel (Queen of the Dead), the conflicts of this story are neatly ended and there isn't any cliffhanger.
Heavier issues like parental alcoholism, the mental health system, stereotypes, guilt, death, and personal growth are also explored, making this book deeper than meets the eye. The real accomplishment here is that the book never feels bogged down, depressing, or overly serious. Instead, the author manages to maintain a light and sweet tone throughout the book without diminishing the importance of these issues. Nicely done.
Explanation of rating system: Star Rating Key