Sunday, December 16, 2018

Book Review: Ghosted by Leslie Margolis

Stars: 3 out of 5
Pros: Ending is good
Cons: Ellie is just so mean until then
The Bottom Line:
New Christmas Carol
Spends too much time in the past
Result: average

Mean Girl Gets Scrooged

I went to a book signing a few weeks back featuring three middle grade authors.  Leslie Margolis was there promoting her newest book, Ghosted.  As soon as I learned it was a modern take on A Christmas Carol featuring a “mean girl” in the Scrooge role, I had to check it out.  Sadly, it wasn't as good as I wanted it to be.

Ellie Charles rules Lincoln Heights Middle School.  Everyone wants to be her friend and everyone wants to please her.  She's top of the class academically, president of the student body, and chairperson of every committee that matters.  Maybe she rules with an iron fist, but no one seems to mind - at least as best Ellie can tell.

The book opens the day of the winter dance.  Naturally, Ellie is chair of the dance committee, and it is going to be awesome!  However, when Ellie falls off a ladder, she finds herself having a freaky out of body experience.  Suddenly, she's back five years ago when her best friend, Marley, and Marley's two dads lived across the street.  Back before her father left her and her mother right before Christmas.  Why is she witnessing these events again?  And who is the Girl in Black who seems to be following Ellie on this trip down memory lane?

If you are familiar with A Christmas Carol, you'll definitely know where this book is going.  There are some nods to the original, but this is mostly its own book.  Ellie's life doesn't follow Scrooge's.  Instead, this borrows the plot outline and tells a new story with it.

Despite Scrooge's horrid behavior at the beginning of his story, I still find that to be a heart-warming holiday tale since he reforms.  Here, I didn't feel the same way.  Yes, much of the action takes place around Christmases past, present, and future.  However, I found Ellie way too mean.  And her transformation seems a bit abrupt for me as well.  With Scrooge, we can see from his questions that he is softening.  Ellie is still justifying her horrible behavior until the end.

And make no mistake about it, her behavior is horrible.  I was cringing for much of the book.

The book does attempt to show us why Ellie felt compelled to become the mean girl she is when we first meet her.  Honestly, that is another flaw to me since we spend so much time in the past that the present and future, the parts that really lead to the transformations in Scrooge, are rushed.  And her past is painful.  Even that is hard to read.

Of course, it is possible that some of my issues with this book are the fact that I'm not the target middle grade girl target.

And I'm not saying the book was all bad.  Ellie does grow as a result of what she goes through.  The ending is wonderful on many fronts.  It just didn’t pack quite the punch I expected or wanted given all that had come before

I'm not sorry I read Ghosted, but it isn't a new holiday treat I'll be revisiting year after year.

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