Saturday, September 12, 2009

Give Up The Ghost Review

Give up the Ghost - Megan Crewe
*September 15th, 2009 Henry Holt & Co

Cass McKenna much prefers the company of ghosts over "breathers." Ghosts are uncomplicated and dependable, and 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...

With Megan Crewe's brilliant debut Give up the Ghost, one has to give up one's preconceived notions about YA ghost stories of the modern age. Because this one? It blows them straight out of the water.

The overall vibe and connotation of Give up the Ghost is "[bright] like a Chinese lantern" (Crewe 2). The concept of ghosts isn't new, but Crewe sets them up in a way that's entirely her own, and it's always intriguing to see new spins on old ideas. The main thread that the story follows makes for a very interesting plot - in short, a page-turner that grips the audience and does not let go, charging them to walk the pages of the book like ghosts walk the places they once inhabited.

Give up the Ghost definitely has very interesting characterization. For one thing, Cass McKenna's "mission to expose the dirty secrets of the poseurs in her school" is a trait of someone who's not your average preppy teenage girl. She's gritty, she's raw, but most importantly, Cass is real. Crewe isn't afraid to show Cass's flaws, and that's what endears her the audience. It's also nice to see a strong protagonist, to see a role reversal on the whole damsel-in-distress motif.

And as for Tim? Tim's definitely a very interesting male lead, and for good reason too. Again, his flaws make him more credible. It's also very refreshing to get a YA lit boy who isn't described as perfect - physically or otherwise. Crewe has also done a brilliant job of using her characters and plot as conduits to explore the theme of appearances vs. reality. Although Give up the Ghost may seem like just a ghost story on the surface, it's so much more. It's got elements of paranormal, of contemporary, of edgy YA - and this is what breathes life into the story. For the most part, the minor characters as well were nicely done, whether they were ghosts or "breathers". Personally I found it a little hard to connect with her parents, but then again, as it is from Cass's POV and she doesn't have a great relationship with them, it's understandable.

What really impressed me was Crewe's portrayal of high school. Perhaps it's not entirely what my school is like, or what your school is like - but it doesn't matter. The evocative connotations Crewe brought to life, the aura she conjured - basically, it all added up to make the setting seem credible and real. A few quirks here and there, but for the most part, the dialogue and teen voice was relatively well done. The phrase "shoot the breeze" was new though; I hadn't heard that before. I guess you learn something new with every book.

A few things would've been nice to get a little more clarification on, in terms of background information, but it works as is too. It's a combination of characters, of writing, etc., but the plot is also part of what keeps the audience hurtling towards the ending, breathless and anticipating what's to come. Crewe definitely pushed the envelope with Give up the Ghost, and although it may be unexpected where the story goes, now it's hard to imagine it going any other way.

In short, Give up the Ghost is masterfully done. Megan Crewe has created an engrossing, illuminating, and captivating tale - a very welcome debut to the YA community.


kay - Infinite Shelf said...

Wow, great review! I ordered this one from Amazon, but I'm still happily surprised when I read good reviews of it. I think, after reading yours, that it will go right to the top of my TBR pile - or very close to!

Emilia said...

Hmm. Not lovin' the cover so much... face covers bug me. But it sure sounds like an interesting story. Great review!

Anonymous said...; You saved my day again.

Anonymous said...

Lets just say that your posts mke me desire to comment, some thing which i typically by no means do.

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