Allison's Book Bag

Girl vs. Ghost by Kate McMurry and Marie August

Posted on: September 3, 2011

Ghosts, witches, angels, and demons! Girl vs. Ghost by Kate McMurry and Marie August is not my typical fantasy. Normally, I read about princes and princesses, fairies and changelings, gods and goddesses, and magic creatures and other lands. The paranormal genre however sometimes contains some elements that make me uncomfortable due to my religious beliefs.

Isabel Lindley doesn’t believe in magic, but her best friend Tripp Macauley does. When we first meet them, Tripp is wearing a wizard’s robe. What could be seen as two teens playing dress-up takes on an all-too-real tone when we see the girls seated at opposite edges of a magic circle. Tripp is trying to perform a casting spell and Isabel is serving as her “amplifier” by waving a candle every time Tripp waves hers. Moreover, from the perspective of the ghost which Tripp succeeds in conjuring up, “black-purple smoke is “trickling from Isabel’s belly and “thick red smoke-light” is surging from Tripp’s midsection, and a “churning cloud is billowing” from the book of spells. In every way, this scene evokes images of witches—with humor. As the girls sit opposite one another, Isabel’s thoughts are on the salt which they had used to create the circle and how it’s going to be a major hassle to clean up.

Girl vs. Ghost is part comedy, part romance, and part paranormal. After Tripp inadvertently conjures up a ghost, we discover that Marc doesn’t even know that he is one. In addition, we discover that only Isabel can see Marc and that he’s connected to her by a cable. The reason that only Isabel can see Marc is a revealed late in the book. As for the cable, while it is a little hokey, the predicament of the two being tied together makes for some of the funniest scenes in the book. If you wonder how, think about trying to shower while being tethered to the opposite sex. While I rarely care for the multiple point-of-views technique, the authors used it to their advantage to allow Marc to show real male feelings. Even though Marc remains outwardly polite to Isabel, in his mind we see that he’d love if just once she were to drop her towel. Of course, given how much these two teenagers start out by hating one another, the real question isn’t whether they will end up together but how they’ll overcome their animosity to work together. And work together they must. When Tripp’s grandmother summons an angel to take Marc towards the light, we learn there is a deeper darkness afoot. Isabel must help Marc or he will forever remain an amnesiac ghost.

My main complaint outside the paranormal element is the one I keep having about many first novels. No doubt it’ll be the one that other reviewers will also knock me for if I ever become a novelist and that is: the writing quality is, not surprisingly, uneven. Sometimes the descriptions seem natural; other times they’re forced. Before the girls meet Marc, Isabel has an eerie sensation that she’s being watched. As Isabel tries to figure out why, readers are treated to a well-crafted tour of her room that builds up suspense. In another scene, Isabel reflects upon her friendship with Tripp and in doing so talks about her friend’s appearance. This description feels more obligatory, even if it is well written. Unfortunately, some of the exposition and dialog seems clunky and verbose. At times, the exposition yanked me out of the story of slowed down what should have been a taunt action-packed moment.

The bigger issue for me is that the positive references to psychic abilities, witchcraft, and even New Age are unsettling. Why does the underlying acceptance of witchcraft bother me? I like fantasies such as Wizard of Oz and Harry Potter. The difference is that fictional magic practiced in a fantastical way feels like just pretend, while magic practiced in a realistic way feels too real. It probably seems as I’m rationalizing what kind of paranormal books I will accept or not accept. In reality, the choice isn’t always clear cut to me. What do you think about paranormal fantasy? If you like it, are there lines you draw regarding what you will or will not read?

These concerns aside, the story was refreshingly cute for paranormal fiction, which is often dark. Also, I like that Marc is not a “bad boy,” but just an innocent bystander. For those who are open to all aspects of the paranormal line of fiction, Girl vs. Ghost is a nice guilty pleasure.

My rating? Read it: Borrow from your library or a friend. It’s worth your time.

How would you rate this book?

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