Monday, October 25, 2021

🎃Ghost Girl by Ally Malinenko

If you are in the mood for a good, spooky story, go no further than Ghost Girl. Eleven-year-old Zee Puckett has been living with her older sister Abby, 18, ever since their dad left their home in Knobb's Ferry to find work. Zee's mother had died when she was born, but not before she had named her Zera, which the kids in school changed to Zero. Zee was also born with bone-white hair that never darkened.   

Zee has always had a taste for the macabre, and so, after a terrible storm floods Knobb's Ferry, and school is closed, Zee and her best and only friend Elijah head over to the cemetery to see if any coffins had been pulled out of the ground because of the heavy rain. Separated from Elijah, Zee finds nothing except a large dog with blood red eyes, who disappears when Elijah returns. Elijah thinks it's just one of Zee's stories, but even after they leave the cemetery, Zee feels like the shadow of the dog is following her. 

When school begins again, Zee's class goes on a field trip to the main library, where she is caught talking to a boy only she can see. Caught by her nemesis Nellie Bloom, Zee is quickly nicknamed Ghost Girl. Back at school, Zee learns that the principal and the new kindergarten teacher are both mysteriously missing, and a new principal is immediately hired. Principal Scratch is as creepy as his name sounds, and he seems to mesmerize the students in his first assembly, well, except Zee and Elijah.  

Still plagued by the shadow of the dog with the blood red eyes, Zee discovers that like her mother, she has the ability to communicate with the dead, and it is the ghost of the kindergarten teacher who helps them figure what happened to her.

Soon, Principal Scratch is visiting the homes of Knobb's Ferry residents, including Abby, and telling everyone to visualize what they most desire. For Abby, that means hearing from their dad, whom they have not heard from in quite some time. Pretty soon, everyone in town is under Principal Scratch's spell, but what exactly is that spell? Is Abby really speaking to their dad all the time now, even though he isn't on the line when she gives the phone to Zee? And is that really Elijah's seriously ill mom, healthy now, even when Zee spies her still in bed at the same time? Is everyone really getting the thing they most desire so easily, but at what cost?

When Nellie's beloved dog Max goes missing, and it is Principal Scratch who finds the dog, she is convinced it isn't her Max that he returns to her. Now, she must join forces with Zee and Elijah to discover what is going on. Luckily, she has an aunt who the same ability to speak to ghosts as Zee has. 

But can three kids go up against a powerful, paranormal force like Principal Scratch, especially now that everyone in town is under his spell? And to what end does this benefit their very creepy principal?

I thought this would be a perfect book to read just before Halloween and Ghost Girl certainly lives up to its promised creepy storyline. I didn't particularly like Zee at first. I thought that running off to the cemetery after a storm to see if any coffins has surfaced a bit morbid, and I also found her to a little too headstrong, like just an annoying step beyond spunky. But as her plight got worse and it was clear Principal Scratch had his sights especially on her, I began to feel more empathy for her.   

Principal Scratch certainly is evil incarnate - literally. Zee seems to be the only one with the ability to resist his seductive suggestions to visualize what is most desired that everyone else in town seems to fall for, with the exception of Nellie. Even Elijah believes his sick mother has made a recovery until he realizes what her cake batter consists of. 

I know that my 11-year-old self would have loved this book, hanging on every word and reading it in one sitting. My now self didn't love it as much as I would have, partly because of the convenient coincidences (Nellie's aunt, the kindergarten teacher) and the quick resolution. Even so, this is a fun book and for the most part, I enjoyed reading it. It's also a nice commentary on how easily people can be led to believe anything if they want it badly enough and there is a charismatic enough leader who seems able to provide the means to get it. 

This book is recommended for readers age 9+
Thank you to Talish and Sabrina at SparkPoint Studio for providing me with a review copy of this book.


  1. This sounds like a book my students will love. The 5th graders love spooky stories! Thanks for sharing. Awesome cover!

  2. I am glad to hear this one is properly creepy. Maybe I will check it out before the end of the year...


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