Reviews and Recommendations by Mel Odom, Professional Writer

ghostgirl by Tonya Hurley


The first thing that drew me to ghostgirl is the cover. That silhouette cut-out on a jet-black cover with the pink ribbon and the pink splashes of color was designed to get that kind of attention. The bushy head of hair and the stick-thin cartoon body is provocative. The hardcover has some serious heft to it too, and I was intrigued by that as well when I had it in my hands.

Then I noticed the shape. The book isn’t a comfortable rectangle like so many books are. Rather, it’s elongated – almost coffin-shaped, you might say. And once that impression entered my head, that the girl on the cover was actually lying in a coffin, she haunted me. But I turned away from her and the story she was dying to tell me.

I read a lot of YA books, but I tend to want to read BOY books rather than GIRL books. And ghostgirl — especially with that pink ribbon – screams GIRL. Turns out, I was right about that, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying it.

ghostgirl is Tonya Hurley’s first novel, but there are supposed to be more centered on this character. Seems dead young Miss Charlotte Usher (and you don’t have to wonder long before you put that name and Edgar Allen Poe together) is going to have quite the afterlife.

Hurley is an independent filmmaker in addition to being a (now) bestselling author. She obviously has lots of experience with young girls, and a decidedly twisted view of life. And death.

I enjoyed Charlotte’s short existence before her passing. After raising a teenaged girl myself, I knew how neurotic and strange they could be. Of course, to be fair, my daughter probably learned how strange fathers could be, so I consider the education a trade off. Charlotte, living and dead, is a treat and a true example of those humbling teen years that cost so dearly and scar so deeply.

Charlotte’s painful realization that she’s going to have to go to school even though she’s dead is too funny. Apparently neither the living nor the dead can escape high school. Hurley handles the dead world and the living world with equal aplomb. But it isn’t long before Charlotte starts breaking rules on both sides of the grave.

The pairing of Charlotte, who wanted to be as popular as her personal enemy, diva Petula, and goth girl Scarlet, who’s also Petula’s little sister, is inspired. Despite their differences, they get along. After all, they both have their issues with Petula. And I have to wonder if Charlotte and Scarlet were chosen because their names sounded so similar.

The story speeds along. Turning the pages is effortless. However, I was surprised at how much Scarlet stepped into the spotlight toward the end of the book. We almost lose Charlotte at times. But by that point I was reading the novel to see what happened next, which is where writers want readers spending their time.

The novel’s progression doesn’t ever take on any of the weightier problems in life. The story stays locked in just one step short of slapstick, and that’s a fun place to be. I finished the novel in a sitting. Although I wasn’t really surprised by any of the turn of events, I was satisfied and enjoyed several chuckles.

ghostgirl is definitely a book for reluctant readers. It’s fun and moves quickly. However, there’s enough near-adult content that parents might want to read this one for themselves before handing it down to the 9-12 crowd.

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