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Monday, November 23, 2009

Review: Give Up the Ghost by Megan Crewe

Title: Give Up the Ghost
Author(s): Megan Crewe
Genre: YA Paranormal High School Slice-of-Life
Page Count: 241
Publisher: Henry Holt and Company

Summary: Cass McKenna much prefers ghosts over “breathers.” Ghosts are uncomplicated and dependable. They know the dirt on everybody… and Cass loves dirt. She’s on a mission to expose the dirty secrets of the poseurs in her school.
But when the vice president of the student council discovers her secret, Cass’s whole scheme hangs in the balance. Tim wants her to help him contact his recently deceased mother, and Cass reluctantly agrees.
As Cass becomes increasingly entwined in Tim’s life, she’s surprised to realize he’s not so bad—and he needs help more desperately than anyone else suspects. Maybe it’s time to give the living another chance…
-Summary from cover flap.

The Review: I had a really good time reading this novel. My favourite aspect of the novel was definitely the treatment of the supernatural. Rather than going on about the Very Special Powers of Cass and running off on Very Cool Adventures, it’s more about the way in which her abilities seeing ghosts impact, rather than change, her life. It’s got this slice-of-life feel with dark humour that I’m a complete sucker for, and I love it.

The writing is very easy to get into. It’s fluid and quick, and Cass’ wry humour and sarcasm lends itself well to the first person narration Crewe choose to tell this story in. I was pulled into the flow of the story very quickly and finished the novel within the 24 hours after I checked it out of the library. The dialogue is also very snappy, flows well, and fun to read as well. I really love the steady pacing of the whole story. There was never really a moment that was too slow or too fast. I guess if I really must complain than maybe the flashbacks could have been handled a little better, but that is a minor quibble on my part.

Note: This is again, one of those YA fiction that does the list thing. But it's handled in a humourous way, so it wasn't as annoying as it potentially could have been.

The two strongest characters in the novel are definitely Cass and Tim. I suspect that the reader’s enjoyment of the novel is highly dependent on how much they can empathize with Cass, and sometimes Cass and her cynicism makes her a hard person to sympathize with. But once the reader gets her, it makes the story that much more interesting because you really feel for Cass, with all her flaws, and care about what Cass goes through. I really liked what Crewe has done with Tim. He could have so easily just been the perfect angsty boy love interest to swipe Cass off her feet, but he wasn’t. That’s another thing I really enjoyed about this novel: Crewe chooses to not concentrate on romance. This is not another paranormal epic romance about two people falling in love. This is about a girl and a boy with very big problems and flaws, and how they grow by interacting with one another, and learn to care for people. Crewe holds tight reign over the story and refuses to let high romantic drama take over, and in doing so she achieves greater emotional impact with her story. The Cass/Tim dynamic is definitely one of my favourite aspects of this novel.

While these two central characters shine brilliantly throughout the story, the side characters do fall a bit to the wayside. Some of the ghosts felt more like stock characters more than anything, simply there to facilitate Cass’ storyline. Cass’ ex-best friend feels more like a 2D evil villain than a real person, and her parents fair even less, with her Dad almost a non-presence for how much he is even mentioned in the story. This didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the story, but it’s something to point out.

Now, onto the setting. This novel was very much one of those generic high school in upper-class white town types. The reason why I say this is that, really, beyond the description of the school hallways, and perhaps a couple trees and the houses, there really isn’t much other description Crewe bothers to give us readers. It’s all too easy to imagine this novel to be set in any all-white town, and the reason why I came to this conclusion is by how bland the setting: there’s only houses, all Anglo-Saxon names, lacks the city type bustle. Now, add to the fact that this novel is Canadian, and we get, yet again, another Canadian children’s/YA lit that is All-White, All-Canadian fiction land. It wouldn’t bother me so much if it weren’t for the fact that after I finished reading, I was trying to think of the last time I read a Canadian YA paranormal/fantasy novel that featured anyone who wasn’t white in any prominent way and came out empty. (Can anyone name one for me? Anyone...?)

Still, it was a fun read overall. The slice-of-life feel to the supernatural was the biggest selling point for me and I definitely think everyone should give this novel a shot. =D

Raiting: 3/5
Enjoyment: 80%

Title and Cover Discussion: Okay, let's start with the title because I actually have something nice to say about it. I like it. If we look it in a literal way it fits the plot of the story very nicely. Unfortunately I don't quite find the title snappy enough to be memorable, because I find myself referring to this novel as "That really good novel called mumblemumble Ghost!! =D" ^^; Another thing I liked was the font of the title. Very ghost-like if we ignore the random pink Now, for the cover, I'll be upfront: Do. Not. Want. It's one of those covers that's conceptually cool but when it comes out it just doesn't work. I like the idea of a high school girl with the ghost whispering all the secrets into her ear but when it's on the cover it just looks weird. The ghost almost looks like s/he's melding into the main cover girl and ugh. Also, the weird forehead cut off doesn't do it for me. I mean, if you're going to show her full face then why not show ALL of it? Why cut off the forehead and the hair at the top? I don't get it. And the random pink is too random. I like pink but it just didn't work with the blue tones of everything else in the cover. The only reason why I wouldn't fail this cover is that we actually see the girl's face, and in current YA novel land (ESPECIALLY with the paranormal YA stuff), this is rare enough that I'm going to relent on my ratings based on this fact.

Title: B+
Cover: C-


choco (In Which a Girl Reads) said...

Nice review! I got this from the library this week so I'm looking forward to reading it. And I agree about the cover :/

Cleverly Inked said...

Great In detailed review. I enjoyed it.

ninefly said...

ohh! friendship > romance? count me in!
that's about all I can say right now before I read it XD;
like I've said before, the cover was so bad I completely ignored this book until I saw a rather convincing review a while back...the girl looks so "ohh, look at me with my awesome ghost buddies! and pink book of random!" sure, the colours are nice, but I can't help but associate it with something like Gossip Girl (not that I know what the show's about but...)
a more sombre cover would have been better =T maybe the girl AND guy on the cover AT THE SAME TIME??? WITHOUT KISSING/GROPING?

I imagine one where they're sitting back to back with blue backlight and ghostly smokey stuff in the background 8DDDDD

Ah Yuan // wingstodust said...

@choco, I hope you enjoy it! And yeah, the cover is such a pity... =/

@Cleverly Inked, thanks! =D

Ah Yuan // wingstodust said...

@Ninefly, ohhhhhh, I like your version of the cover idea much better. =D LULZ The cover's not quite gossip girl material for me (there'd be more GLOSS if there was >D) but I think I get what you mean. Yeah, it's really more about their friendship, and while they do like each other, it's not about their romance. You can read it any way you like. :D