**spoiler alert** First of all, I loved the ghosts. I loved the set up, I love how they revealed themselves and interacted with the 'living' world. I...more**spoiler alert** First of all, I loved the ghosts. I loved the set up, I love how they revealed themselves and interacted with the 'living' world. I even loved their perspectives.
Lily is a great young female protagonist, and not like many. She prefers science and doesn't trust fiction (though her friend Vas loves to read, even Hemingway). Lily is wounded and distrustful, and unlike certain older characters, actually mature for her age. Fortunately that doesn't make her preternaturally intelligent or poised, she's simply used to taking care of herself and her background has actually influenced. Like said unnamed character, Lily's mother is also a little flaky, but not an absent parent.
However, I'm not sure why Vas, the eventual love interest, is the only positive male role. There aren't very many characters at all, but of the two male villains and the female villain, only the woman is redeemed in any character. I suppose Uncle Max could count as a non-villain's male, but he hardly shows up as a character. Wesley is over-the-top super-duper evil villain, all but cackling madly, the librarian shows up as a vamp (why?) who is redeemed because Max didn't really leave her, and Benten is her whiny, weak brother. Even the other male ghost is just a flabby middle-aged guy.
Still. before the live-criminal plot showed up, I enjoyed the story. Lily's burgeoning relationship with Vas was authentic and cute, and gave her mother some character development. Even the mother's reluctance verses Lily's acceptance of the ghosts at the very end was interesting commentary on the nature of belief, given their characters. And the ghosts (aside from Max, oh wait, and Kidd--was he even really necessary?) were very well developed, and engaging.
What was the point of Kidd? There wasn't one. The secret conspiracy just went too far, it was too convoluted and absurd. Wesley could have been an interesting character, and I would have liked to get to know Max, who quite frankly was far more interesting than his pyromaniac, psychopath of a brother. A 22 year old who murdered his brother, and a year later commissions a portrait of him (presumably right after his mother's suicide.) And what tipped off the mother anyway? Why, for all the 'girl power' in this book, didn't she actually do something about it? If it were for older readers, or if she hadn't aimed for a high adventure with pirates, this might have made an interesting revenge story.
That's not fair to the novel, of course. This is a book for young adults and these are just my thoughts, as an adult and more sophisticated reader, so that part doesn't exactly factor into my review.
For kids, and I think the book is aimed at the 10 and older crowd, so for that group, this book should be great fun. And for older kids and adults, it's a quick, enjoyable read, and worth a try, should you have it somewhere. (less)
Not one of my favorites (of Bellairs) but still a fun read. Slow start, and the young protagonists Johnny and Fergie end up simply being there for the...moreNot one of my favorites (of Bellairs) but still a fun read. Slow start, and the young protagonists Johnny and Fergie end up simply being there for the action, rather than taking much part in the actual culmination (though they get themselves there int he first place). The suspense, though is as chilling as any of Bellairs' books. And of course, they're just as good for adults as for kids.(less)