Ghost Girl by Ally Malinenko is a fun middle grade paranormal suspense novel. After a terrible storm hits Zee’s town, she and her friends, including an unlikely comrade, solve a disappearance the strange behavior affecting their loved ones who have come in contact with the school’s new principal, Principal Scratch. While this book left some unanswered questions, I greatly enjoyed it.

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The summary, from Amazon:

Perfect for fans of Small Spaces and Nightbooks, Ally Malinenko’s debut is an empowering and triumphant ghost story——with spooky twists sure to give readers a few good goosebumps!

Zee Puckett loves ghost stories. She just never expected to be living one.

It all starts with a dark and stormy night. When the skies clear, everything is different. People are missing. There’s a creepy new principal who seems to know everyone’s darkest dreams. And Zee is seeing frightening things: large, scary dogs that talk and maybe even . . . a ghost.

When she tells her classmates, only her best friend Elijah believes her. Worse, mean girl Nellie gives Zee a cruel nickname: Ghost Girl.

But whatever the storm washed up isn’t going away. Everyone’s most selfish wishes start coming true in creepy ways.

To fight for what’s right, Zee will have to embrace what makes her different and what makes her Ghost Girl. And all three of them—Zee, Elijah, and Nellie—will have to work together if they want to give their ghost story a happy ending.

Preorder Ghost Girl here.
It will be released on August 10, 2021.

What really shined for me in Ghost Girl was the characters and the representation. Elijah was easily my favorite character. Elijah is Zee’s best friend and, at the start of the novel, her only friend. Elijah is dealing with a lot at home. His mother’s mental illness has been leaving her in bed all day lately. (I loved that at the end of the novel she has a diagonses as bipolar and has been prescribed medication which is helping her.) His dad tries to connect with him, but doesn’t accept that Elijah isn’t into sports like he was as a kid and constantly body-shames him.

Zee lives with her sister. Her mother passed away when she gave birth to Zee, and her father is upstate looking for work. Zee’s sister Abby is only 21 and working two jobs to keep them afloat. I appreciated that while noticing the way kids who like one another act together, Zee reflects on how she’s still not sure about her sexuality. Some days she thinks she likes boys, and others she thinks she likes girls. I loved how aware Zee is of the double standards society has about boys/men and girls/women.

Nellie is a great character too. While she starts off as a bully to Zee, we see that maybe it was a two-sided thing, and Nellie has some struggles in her home life as well.

Ultimately, I thought the characters shone, but I wanted more detail from the plot. While Ghost Girl is the perfect length for a middle grade novel at 288 pages, I still was left with some unanswered questions. Some readers might be left satisfied, but I wanted more.

Metaphorically, I think this book has a great message on consent. And I have to give the author props for straight-up scaring me at one point in this one. (I had chills when Zee finds Abby on the phone at three a.m.) Additionally, there were some excellent quotes in this one. Here are two of my favorites:

Her sadness was a thing she couldn’t figure out how to carry.

She was interested in the stories her mind could invent, the tales her tongue could tell, and the power her body held.

This was a 4 star read for me and I thank NetGalley for sending me a copy in exchange for my honest review.

Find out more about how I rate books here.

Ghost GirlGhost Girl by Ally Malinenko
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Ghost Girl is a charming read that I greatly enjoyed, though it did leave me with some unanswered questions. This was the perfect length novel for middle grade, but I wished there were more details in some parts. I did love the representation in this novel, with a boy dealing with body-shaming from his father and his mother having bipolar disorder, and the main character questioning her sexuality. I also enjoyed how this book addressed the double standards about boys/men and girls/women. My thanks to NetGalley for sending me a copy in exchange for my honest review.

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Book Club Questions

  1. Why did the villain have the most difficult time getting into Zee’s mind?
  2. Do you think Zee was right when she insisted Nellie started everything? Was Nellie the bully, or were she and Zee equally responsible?
  3. Have you ever been in a situation like Elijah is with his father, where an adult in your life wants something different for you than you want? What about a situation like Zee’s, where some people have different ideas about how girls should act that don’t align with how she wants to behave?
  4. Why was Elijah able to fight back against the bad guy in the end?
  5. What does it mean that the villain cannot take “that which is not freely given”?


Interested? Buy Ghost Girl.
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