Sunday, 8 August 2021

#CBR13 Book 27: "Ghost Squad" by Claribel A. Ortega

Page count: 288 pages
Audio book length: 5 hrs 31 mins
Rating: 4 stars

Lucely (pronounced Lu-sell-i, at least by the audio book narrator) Luna may be living alone with her father (her mother left them when Lucely was little) but due to an unusual family legacy, she's able to see the presence of all the family's departed members. Her father, who once had the gift, can only see them as fireflies but accepts that they're there and cooks massive meals to provide for all the extended members who keep Lucely company. The family spirits are all tied to the large tree in the family's backyard, so when a member of the bank comes and announces that if Lucely's dad can't cover his mortgage payments any longer, the family will be evicted, it doesn't just mean potential homelessness for Luna and her dad, but they'll be separated from the family spirits forever. 

Lucely really needs to figure out a way for her father's failing ghost tour business to get more customers and she and her best friend Syd are trying to wrack their brains. Halloween is coming up, and something sinister is brewing in the little town of St. Augustine, where they live. Lucely's grandmother delivers a very ominous warning to her granddaughter and then seems to fade away, her firefly lazy and lethargic. Lucely and Syd rummage through the secret collection of Syd's very alive and formidable grandmother, Babette (rumoured to be an actual witch). They find a spell that they hope will make Lucely's grandmother come back, but it turns out to be something a lot more sinister, and soon the girls are forced to come clean to Babette and enlist her help, and that of her cat Chunk, to reverse the spell and send the malevolent ghosts back where they came from - otherwise the town will be overrun on Halloween.

One of my goals for my seven-week-long summer vacation was that I was going to get on top of my massive review backlog. Now, here we are, with me starting work again tomorrow morning, reviewing books I read in the middle of May. I'm generally trying really hard to focus on the many things my husband and I have achieved during the holiday, while also both struggling with depression, corona-induced cabin fever, and the challenge of constantly entertaining and responsibly raising a boisterous three-year-old. So, not couning this one, there are still fifteen reviews left for me to do before I catch up. My memory of the finer plot points of this middle grade adventure novel, which I read as part of the CBR Book Club this spring, Young at Heart

I'm obviously not the main target audience for this book, but every time I read children's or middle grade books, I am struck by how much more diverse and imaginative they are than most of the ones I remember from my own adolescence. The official book description for this book tries to sell it as a sort of mix of Coco meets Ghostbusters, which as is often the case with these quick pitches is at least halfway misleading. There are a lot of Latinx family vibes in the story, absolutely, and there is absolutely a supernatural element, but the Ghostbusters side of the pitch is more accurate, if those busting the ghosts are two determined girls, an over-weight cat and a grandmother with a lot of arcane knowledge.

Family is a huge focus in the story. The Lunas may only have two living members, but the various ghost relatives who show up to support Lucely in different ways (even willing to risk their afterlife to fight bad ghosts with her) are great. We don't see much of her overworked father, but he clearly cares a lot about her. There's also the family you choose, Lucely's best friend Syd, and Babette, who not only has a house full of cats (all named for characters from The Goonies), but also may or may not be an actual dyed in the wool witch.

This book was fast-paced, adventurous and suitably creepy, I'm sure I would absolutely have adored it if I read it in my tweens. Almarie Guerra does a very good job with the narration, and I shall keep a look-out for her on future audio books.

Judging a book by its cover: I don't have a lot to say about this, except I love the art style and the depiction of the girls, not to mention Chunk, in all their (don't remember what gender the cat is) overweight glory. 

Crossposted on Cannonball Read

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