Boo!

Ghosts by Raina Telgemeier, Scholastic, 2016. 9780545540612.

Guest review by Robert in San Diego.

The Allende-Delmer family is moving away from sunny southern California (and their favorite regional fast food chain) to Bahia de la Luna, a fog-shrouded coastal northern California town. Older sister Cat knows she’s leaving her friends (including boyfriend Ari) not just because her Dad’s got a new job there, but because the moist salt air will help her younger sister Maya, who has cystic fibrosis.

No single world adequately describes Bahia de la Luna. Nearby neighbor boy Carlos is self employed as a ghost tour guide. The whole town takes their ghosts seriously, especially when the dead come back in their proper shapes (not their usual drifting formless shades) for the annual Dia de los Muertos party!

Cat’s nonplussed when her first new friend at her new school confesses the really cute boy she dances with has been dead for about a century. Cat doesn’t want to meet the disembodied locals. Maya, on the other hand, wants to meet ghosts. No matter how positive her outlook is (and she is very positive), she has a pressing need to know what happens when people die. The ghosts try to take some breath from Maya, not knowing she needs all she’s got. This leads to a hospital trip. The ghosts regret their error, but that mistake reinforces Cat’s defensive tendency towards her sister.

That’s not the only regret. Cat and Maya’s Mom regrets the estrangement between herself as a teen and her own mother. “I never even learned to speak fluent Spanish.” Even one of the ghosts, who Cat briefly thinks might be her grandmother, sadly confesses “No hay familia.” (“I don’t have a family.”)
Estrangement and its resolutions are the theme of Ghosts. The devoted sisters have a falling out when the almost entirely housebound Maya learns Cat hasn’t even mentioned her to Cat’s new friends. Cat and Carlos, on the outs after Maya’s hospital trip, make up thanks to traditional Mexican pastries. And Maya does finally get to question a ghost.

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