Today I am going to be reviewing Ghosts by Raina Telgemeier. I really enjoyed Telgemeier’s books when I was around 10. They were fresh, quick paced, and entertaining. I never considered reading her books now (6 years since then!) until my brother expressed interest in picking up Ghosts. I thought it would be great to read at the same time and discuss the novel once we finished. It ended up being just the experience I wanted. It’s surprising to me how my brother, who never reads, was able to enjoy a full book in one sitting. I suspect that it’s because the book reminds him of the Pixar film, “Coco.” This book is thought-provoking, yet sweet and approachable, a great way to highlight culture in middle grade literature.

I can honestly say that the best way to tell this story was in the graphic novel format. It did not feel forced or condensed at all, as some books do in this format. T was not trying to sell a book, she truly had something to say with drawings and a relatively small amount of text.

The drawings were lovely. They were in Telgemeier’s classic, simple style with a surprising amount of depth during certain scenes. You could tell she payed attention to everything, including colors. The color palette was reflective of the scenes and set subtly set the tone. Not to forget, how movement is portrayed incredibly. Telgemeier knows how to bring her story to life through the drawings where the words sometimes fall short.

The plot was contained, which I appreciate. It’s nice to see an author that knows how far her story can stretch. There were necessary time jumps and only the important scenes were highlighted. The whole story structure was clear and that kind of grounding is especially important in middle grade books. No, it was not the most complex. However, it was enough and quite substantial. 

The pacing was the best thing about this book, in my opinion. Even though the book is near 250 pages, both my brother and I were able to whiz through it in  an hour max. Since things are moving so quickly, there is a certain lightness to this book that is nice to have against the more solemn tone. 

It’s nice to see a mainstream author write a successful, diverse book. Telgemeier highlighted culture in a beautiful way with a certain whimsy. While I’m not of Mexican descent, I am of color, so many I related to the problems that the characters struggled with when it comes to coping with culture. And that’s the reason why we need diverse books: to give kids the chance to see characters dealing with problems that come from their worlds. I know that this aspect also had a big impact on my brother. We both struggle with how much of our culture we want to accept in our regular lives and how to deal with family members’ seemingly crazy spiritual beliefs.

Beyond dealing with culture, I also think Telgemeier addressed the theme of family well. She dealt with siblings, responsibility, parents, etc. with an honesty I don’t see in the YA books I normally read. It was smart to include equally valid perspectives from all angles, because that reflects reality. I saw myself in the older sibling, even though she was a little younger than me and I know the same goes for my brother and the younger sibling. Telgemeier manages to give everyone in the family someone/something to relate to without weighing down her story in “deep messages.”

Bottom line, this is a clear 4 star book. I left it feeling good, and having a lot to discuss. There were problems with dialogue and plot consistency, but I wasn’t necessarily looking at this book from such a harsh angle. Telgemeier did what she wanted to do and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I wasn’t expecting some literary masterpiece from a middle grade graphic novel, the intentions and result were clear.

Thank you for reading my review and I hope you will join me again as we go off to amazing places.

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