Review: Ghosts by Raina Telgemeier

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Title: Ghosts
Author: Raina Telgemeier
Genres: MG, Fantasy
Series: N/A
Pages: 256
Published: Expected September 13th 2016
Source: ARC via Publisher
Rating: 4 out of 5
Catrina and her family are moving to the coast of Northern California because her little sister, Maya, is sick. Cat isn't happy about leaving her friends for Bahía de la Luna, but Maya has cystic fibrosis and will benefit from the cool, salty air that blows in from the sea. As the girls explore their new home, a neighbor lets them in on a secret: There are ghosts in Bahía de la Luna. Maya is determined to meet one, but Cat wants nothing to do with them. As the time of year when ghosts reunite with their loved ones approaches, Cat must figure out how to put aside her fears for her sister's sake - and her own.

Catrina is a SoCal girl. She loves the beach and the sun and especially all of her friends. So when her family moves up north to Bahía de la Luna, she's understandably upset. The weather is dreary, her friends are far away, and the place is a ghost town - literally. Bahía de la Luna has a strong connection to Día de Muertos and everyone she meets wants to talk about the ghosts. Cat does not want to talk about ghosts. She doesn't want to think about ghosts. Because ghosts represent death and Cat's sister is sick. So as Maya, who suffers from cystic fibrosis, eagerly throws herself into the culture and preparations for Día de Muertos, Cat's left to worry by the sidelines.

The art of this graphic novel is very pretty. Its simplicity and muted color palette illustrate Cat's feelings about Bahía de la Luna and her fears, but allow for the growth to an absolutely gorgeous riot of colors for the Día de Muertos festival. The characters strike a good balance between Maya's unending optimism and Cat's cautious fear.

For being a middle-grade title, this slim little graphic novel covers a lot of heavy topics. Have a box of tissues handy when Maya's condition gets worse. CF is degenerative and her impending death hangs over the story. Meanwhile, Cat and her mom struggle with a feeling of disconnection from their Mexican culture since Abuela passed. There have been no homemade Mexican dishes, no alters, no Day of the Dead before this move. Now they're in the middle of a proud Hispanic neighborhood, with friends who bring them enchiladas on bad days and flowers to honor Abuela on good ones. There's also a lot of guilt and fear and anger surrounding being the healthy child with a dying sibling and I really want to give Cat a hug and the card of a good child therapist, because she is not coping well and it's heartbreaking. Ghosts ends on a very positive, hopeful note that helps balance some of the previous melodrama, though if you're me, that just makes you cry harder.

I picked this graphic novel up at BEA because while my girlfriend's niece is a reluctant reader, she was very into Telgemeier's Drama. She's also a child of color, which means she doesn't get to see herself in books nearly often enough. I am so excited to pass this onto her, though I feel like I should also give her a pint of ice cream with it.


  1. HOLY CRAP I didn't know Raina was publishing another graphic novel? If you loved this I highly highly recommend Smile by her. It's one of the greatest middle grade graphic novels of all time and it's just so relatable!!! Loved this and will definitely keep my eye out for it.

    Alex @ The Book's Buzz

  2. I heard about this graphic novel recently, I'm glad you enjoyed it although it does sound awfully heavy! I mentioned it to my friend who is a 5th grade teacher based on good reviews like yours and she thought it might be something she picks up for the class library! :)

    1. I hope her kids love it. Graphic novels are all we can get Jazzy to read right now. I'm hoping it's just the age, because I am quickly running out of options.


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