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Ordinary Ghosts

3.52  ·  Rating Details ·  245 Ratings  ·  31 Reviews
Family secrets and school secrets entwine in an engaging new novel from the author of You Remind Me of You, and Splintering.

Sometimes when life haunts you, you're better off becoming the ghost. Emil Simon feels invisible enough. He counts as a nonentity at his elite preparatory school and makes barely a dent in his father's thoughts. When his older brother runs away, he en
Hardcover, 380 pages
Published April 1st 2007 by Scholastic Press
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(showing 1-30)
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Jennifer Wardrip
Reviewed by Karin Perry for

Emil's life has been turned upside down in the last year. His mother has died of cancer and his brother, who he has always looked up to, has disappeared without a trace. Emil and his father don't communicate about anything important and rarely see each other due to his father's work schedule. The only friend he has is Soma, a rule-bending, line-crossing boy who is in the same grade as Emil.

Nothing exciting happens to Emil. He is average in every way.
Mar 13, 2011 Rob rated it liked it
Shelves: young-adult-lit
This one grew on me. I didn't care for it much at first – Emil, the protagonist, felt like a sub-Holden Caufield caricature and the 1st-person narration seemed a little overwrought, like author Corrigan was trying too hard to get inside the skin of a teenage boy. But as the story progressed – about Emil's struggle to come to terms with the truth about his mom's death, his brother's disappearance, and his attraction to a mysterious girl – I found myself more interested in what he had to say, and ...more
Nov 18, 2014 ??? rated it it was amazing
This is one of those books where 99% of the writing that goes on is thoughts inside the MC's head. It's based around a teenage boy who goes to an old boy's school- sometimes reading his thoughts, especially his drug-related/sexual ones are really uncomfortable. I tried to read this when I was a bit younger, but all that rebelliousness intimidated me a lot. So this is definitely one for older teens/adults. You kind of have to be in the mood for that frank, confidant tone.

The MC Emil idolises his
Jan 06, 2008 Karin rated it really liked it
Shelves: youngadult, edgy
Emil's life has been turned upside down in the last year. His mother has died of cancer and his brother, who he has always looked up to, has disappeared without a trace. Emil and his father don't communicate about anything important and rarely see each other due to his father's work schedule. The only friend he has is Soma, a rule-bending, line-crossing boy who is in the same grade as Emil.

Nothing exciting happens to Emil. He is average in every way. His brother, Ethan, was the bright, shining s
Jan 11, 2009 Jaemi rated it really liked it
Emil Simon hasn't had the best year. First he suffered the loss of his mother, and then his brother. Alone now with his father, at a school he's not really comfortable at, Ethan spends most of his time imaging what's become of Ethan. He milks his teachers' sympathy as much as he can in terms of makeup tests and extensions. Still his grades are suffering.

When his father has to take off for a week for business, Emil couldn't be happier. He sees this as his big chance, this week of freedom, and he
Oct 29, 2015 Rachel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Originally posted here

I love YA books with a male MC. I don’t exactly know when I came to that conclusion but naturally, I’ve decided I want to read more of them. I’ve got a small list I’m trying to get through and Ordinary Ghosts seemed like a good place to start.

While I did find it hard to read at times, (this is only because the book and font were weirdly small) I was intrigued from the start. I really liked Emil. He made me laugh. He’s clearly lonely and d
Oct 18, 2009 Liz rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: 14+ for drug use and some sex, 15+ will get more out of it
Shelves: ya, 2009
A lovely character-driven story. It felt like I was really in the head of an actual teenage guy, not Edward Cullen or Seth what's-his-name (is it Riggs? Anyway, the guy in Wicked Lovely). Corrigan is a really good writer and she ties all the elements of the story in well. The climax was very emotional and even shocking. Typical theme of family secrets, but untypical secret. I can't imagine having to make a choice of that magnitude.

After reading the part where he was on acid, it was funny, althou
Apr 11, 2015 Michelle rated it liked it
This book started our VERY slow, I wasn't even sure if I wanted to continue reading it. I mean I was at pg. 100 and still questioning which usually makes me toss a book. This one I stuck with for some reason and I wasn't too terribly disappointed with it. It really picked up in the second half, that's where all the content was.

This book was very much about the mind of a high school boy. I spent the whole time reading assuming it was a male author but it turns out that it wasn't! I was extremely
May 24, 2008 Faith rated it really liked it
Shelves: young-adult
On the one hand, I really really liked it. On the other, I was a little confused by the lack of plot. But maybe it's how the character's evolve over a two week period that's the real story here. Not exactly what Booklist said in their review, but I think that that makes the story all that much better.

When the book opens, Emil's brother has just left shortly after their mother dies of cancer. Dad is withdrawn and Emil, being a 16 year old boy, doesn't exactly know what to make of the situation.
Alex R
Apr 21, 2009 Alex R rated it really liked it
After I was ordered to check out a book from the library because I forgot to bring one to class, I ended up picking up this book, thinking the cover looked interesting enough. Well, I ended up really liking this book. The author, to me, really captured what teenagers think and do.
Emil is a student at Caramoor Academy and he has problems like any other teenager. Except his problems run deeper than most. His father is strict and a drunkard, mostly because he is still dealing with losing Emil's mot
Apr 11, 2013 Heymrsp rated it liked it
Shelves: 2013
This book has probably one of the most memorable male protagonists I've read. He would fit right in with Holden Caulfield. But the whole time they were together, he'd be super introverted and in his head & wishing he could be like Holden, because Holden doesn't hold back with what's on his mind, whereas Emil goes over and over and over things in his mind so much that he often never takes any real action. I got sucked into this book within the few first chapters. The story is intriguing and o ...more
Nov 20, 2007 Lucy rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: people who like awesome teen boy books
Shelves: teen
Emil’s life kind of sucks. His mom died from cancer less than a year ago. His perfect older brother Ethan picked up and left one day not long after. And his dad is the strong, silent type. Emil’s not much more popular at school, either. But when he’s snooping in Ethan’s room one day, he finds the key.

Not the key to happiness, or contentment, or anything like that. No, it’s the master key that opens all of the doors at Caramoor, Emil and Ethan’s exclusive private school. Every year, one supreme j
Harriniya Sonal
Sep 09, 2014 Harriniya Sonal rated it really liked it
When I first bought the book I thought it revolved around a boy who ends up getting his hands on the school keys and how he sneaks off every night to the school and discovers that there are ghosts present in the school. It was the exact opposite. I don't know what made me come up with that baffling idea. The book surpasses every expectation I set upon it.

I read the book 2 years ago and i still remember him having feelings for a girl of the same age as his brother. It somehow reminds me of 'Perk
Jan 05, 2009 Caroline rated it really liked it
When I went into the bookstore, I wasn't originally looking for this particular book but I was looking for a book by this author (they didn't have the book I wanted)I was pleasantly surprised by the parts of this book that I liked. As usual, I had fun with the romance aspects but I really liked the different relationships that were written, almost in a criticizing manner. The relationship between a distant father and his estranged (and one missing) sons, the relationship between a young woman te ...more
Apr 16, 2008 caitlin rated it it was ok
While I loved Eireann Corrigan's poetry as an adolescent, I can't say I loved this book. I think the problem with writing a young adult fiction novel with a teenaged male protagonist is that you are always going to draw parallels with Holden, and this one definitely did. Ad nauseum.

It's difficult for a woman to write for a teenaged boy. It's hard to get it right without being horny-all-the-time, and I think Eireann wrote a wussy character who cried a lot and admitted it a lot. There needed to be
Dec 09, 2013 Zharia rated it it was ok
The book "Ordinary Ghosts" is based on a boy named Emil. In the story Emil tries to cope with the death of his mother and the absence of his brother. After reading I had came to the conclusion that I disliked this book. I feel as though it should have been more exciting. Some parts left me wanting more or it lacked information for me to fully understand what was going on. I suggest this book to people that like a challenge as to finding out the ending of the book on their own verses the people ...more
Kelly Oram
Oct 07, 2010 Kelly Oram rated it liked it
This book has such a strong voice. I love it when that happens. The main character was so entertaining and I just loved being inside his head. That's really what made me enjoy this book so much. The concept of the story promised to be intriguing but the actual plot didn't quite live up to what I thought it would be. Over all it dragged just a little but I was still never bored because I was usually laughing at something the main character was thinking. I also enjoyed the romance in this book. It ...more
I didn't read far enough into it to really review, but I just wanted to say:

I quit reading this book because in the first sixty pages there were two or three uses of the R word, possibly more. And it is a degrading word. I don't care if it is in-character for your main character to use it. It's distracting and bothered me seriously.

Disappointing, because I LOVE Eireann Corrigan and her poetry memoir is still one of my favorite books. But wow. Not good, sweetie.
Martha Schwalbe
Sep 26, 2010 Martha Schwalbe rated it really liked it
Page 280, "I don't know who comes out as the favorite -- the kid who's willing to collect the pills or the one who would never let you take them."
Having never been confronted by this thought it's difficult to answer but it's a compelling question and really at the heart of the book. It takes a while to get into the story but for me it was well worth. I suggest putting it into the hands of a competent reader to find out how it reaches out to the young adult group.
Jul 23, 2007 C rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: bored teens/adults
Shelves: eh
This book wasn't particularly great but wasn't terrible. At times the teen protagonist's voice is engaging and interesting, but other times he gets stuck on a syntactic skip (i.e. "ricockulous"--and somewhere Beavis and Butthead giggle) and repeats the word as often as possible in as many variations as possible until the reader (i.e. me) wants to set herself on fire. If he could manage to jump the scratch more often, the voice would take on a little more authenticity.

Apr 14, 2008 Cathy rated it really liked it
Emil Simon searches for meaning and mooring following his mother's death from cancer and his older, more popular brother's disappearance shortly afterwards. Using the master key to his all boys prep school that his brother left him, Emil takes advantage of his father's 9 day business trip to prowl the campus late at night. It's there that he meets his art teacher's daughter who has secrets of her own.
Oct 22, 2007 Debrarian rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: HS
Shelves: ya-aka-teen
Absorbing tale of a modern Holden Caulfield whose mother recently died of cancer, whose brother helped her get the pills for the overdose and has since disappeared, whose father is cold and distant, and who sneaks onto the gracious prep school campus at night to explore buildings with a master key, plan a prank, and hang out with the girl who, mysteriously, works late at night in the pottery studio.
Caitlín (Ink Mage)
Apr 01, 2008 Caitlín (Ink Mage) rated it liked it
I have a hard time deciding between three stars and two stars for some books ("it was ok" seems more like it should be in the middle to me), and this was one of them. It wasn't great, the story kind of wandered around, like the author couldn't decide what kind of book she wanted it to be. And maybe it was just me, but the end didn't really make sense.
Trinity Earle
Mar 23, 2010 Trinity Earle rated it really liked it
It was a very good book but I found it had no real story climax. The book we kind of just there. It didn't get u to the part where your frantically turning pages wanted 2 know what's next. But the end did have a nice surprising twist.
Sep 04, 2008 Jennifer rated it it was amazing
Why this book isn't getting equal amount of raves as say that Twilight crap is beyond me. This is a fantastic book. One of the few books with a male protagonist I've read recently. It's heartbreakingly good. Just read it.
Jun 02, 2010 Erin rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was well written, but I got bored reading it. This is only because I'm not a person who really likes reflective, sad books. I only read it because my friend gave it to me to read. This book would be perfect for anyone who likes this genre.
Aug 10, 2007 Amy rated it did not like it
Is it terrible that I didn't finish this book? I'm a self-conscious reader - always have been. Perhaps this is why I love Dave Eggers so - a self-conscious writer.
Kathy Quimby
Sep 15, 2011 Kathy Quimby rated it really liked it
Would go well with LOOKING FOR ALASKA and THE SECRET LIFE OF FRANKIE LANDAU BANKS, as a complicated school & life story.
Summer Rose
Summer Rose rated it it was amazing
Apr 21, 2013
May rated it really liked it
Mar 17, 2010
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Eireann Corrigan was born in 1977. She is a graduate of Sarah Lawrence College and New York University. She currently lives in New Jersey with her kitten Sumo. When she grows up, she hopes to marry Bob Dylan.
More about Eireann Corrigan...

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