Happy Saturday, guys!
Today, we're reviewing the lovely and ethereal Ghosts by Raina Telgemeier.
Raina has created a beautiful, wistful story about two sisters who learn to embrace the magic of a life in a new town. Catrina and Maya also learn how to embrace the idea that family and love will never us, especially if we're open to all possibilities.
Expected publication: September 13th 2016 by GRAPHIX
Format read: Finished copy via publisher
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.
Raina introduces us to Catrina and Maya, two half-Hispanic, half-Caucasian sisters who are moving to the chilly Northern California city of Bahia de la Luna, for Maya's health.
However, both sisters quickly learn that this is a town where the veil between the living and the dead is a thin one, and they have much to learn from the ghostly world...
Despite my enthusiasm for a new Telgemeier book, I actually went into Ghosts with a bit of a heavy heart. We've just completed a project for a young boy with cystic fibrosis (CF) at work, so I began the book knowing full well the realities of the diseases, and just how much a young CF patient has to undergo on a daily basis. Given both that knowledge and the title and the synopsis of the book, I was warily anticipating the book ending in a very specific way.
But to my great surprise, my pre-existing knowledge of CF actually emphasized just how much research and care Telgemeier has poured into this book. Because it's evident from page one, that Telgemeier too understands the realities of the disease, and does not attempt to sugar coat the day-to-day struggles and obstacles faced by the patient and their family alike.
Maya's life isn't an easy one; she struggles with normal exercises, needs to undergo treatment every day, and both Catrina and their parents are constantly worried about her. Yet, Maya faces each day with an enthusiasm and determination that reminds her family and her new neighbors in Bahia de Luna on the importance of living life, even when it comes with struggles along the way.
Telgemeier smartly shows Maya having a logical, pragmatic view to the possibilities and limitations of her life, which is both heartbreaking, but also feels very true to the worldview of someone who has been put in the position of having to grow up before her time. It contrasts neatly with Catrina, who struggles between feeling resentful of having to up-end her life for her sister, but also wanting to protect her sister from the realities of the world.
Consequently, readers can't help but empathize with Catrina both as she feels immense guilt for unintentionally putting her sister in danger after meeting the ghosts, but also for her spur-of-the-moment decision in pretending her sister is just a family friend. Though readers will likely cringe at Catrina's deception, they will undoubtedly also understand her wish for things to just feel normal, for once.
Eventually though, the journey of both sisters comes to a head with the help of a neighbor and burgeoning friend. The sisters meet the ghosts of loved ones and those long-gone during Dios de Los Muertos, and Telgemeier shows the conclusion of the journey - through a charmingly heartbreaking secondary character - and helps both of them understand that no matter how much time may pass, our loved ones will always be with us, and be tied to us. It's a wonderful, emotional conclusion, that will enchant readers, even with its slightly melancholy tone.
It's a surprisingly profound journey for a book that is aimed toward younger characters, but readers of all ages wll be comforted by how skillfully and thoughtfully Telgemeier handles that conclusion. It's one of those concepts that will likely have younger readers thoughtfully going, "That makes sense!" and will equally give them comfort if needed.
Bottom line: With equally beautiful art, this is a book not to be missed. Highly recommend for this gorgeous, thoughtful book, full stop.
About the author:
Raina Telgemeier is the #1 New York Times bestselling, multiple Eisner Award-winning creator of Smile and Sisters, which are both graphic memoirs based on her childhood. She is also the creator of Drama, which was named a Stonewall Honor Book and was selected for YALSA's Top Ten Great Graphic Novels for Teens. Raina lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. To learn more, visit her online at goRaina.com.