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Book Review: Lilys Ghosts by Laura Ruby

 Book Review: Lilys Ghosts by Laura Ruby

'I just didnt think it would be this cold, says Arden, Lilys dreamily named and dreamily natured mother.

You never think it will be'this cold, responds Lily.'Or this bad or this hard or this long.

Lily and her mother have moved a dozen or so times in the past decade, shuffling along somewhere new each time one of serial monogamist Ardens relationships dont work out. Arden, all but lost to her family, desperately seeks to have meaning to'someone; every time she meets a man she convinces herself that hes'the man, and together they would plan and plan and plan until the plans were so elaborate that the man would get all tangled up in them, forget his part.

The most recent break-up has led to the financially desperate Lily and Arden seeking refuge in the old family mansion. Arden has designs to set up yet another business, while Lily is to be home-schooled. In an extremely hands-off, self-study fashion. But from the moment the two arrive in the mansion, things seem slightly'off. That strange painting of the ghastly Uncle Max, for example. Or the fact that Lilys shoes end up inexplicably filled with jam. Or the man with the burning hands.

But as airy-fairy and wishy-washy as Arden might be, Lilys the opposite. Shed rather spend time with her microscope than on flights of fancy. Science books hold much more interest for her than fiction. All that made up stuff? Who cared about made up people?

Or perhaps this quote:

How else do you explain it?

What do you mean, how else can I explain it? I can explain it in a thousand ways! There was somebody else in the house! There was somebody in the window! There was somebody in the kitchen or the hallway!

Still, even rational, logical Lily can only deny for so long that something slightly odd is going on. And when she makes friends with local boy Vaz, who habitually catches up with the ghost of his dead father, and who delights in fiction (Books are life with all the boring bits cut out), Lilys eyes are slowly opened to the fact that perhaps theres more to the world than she might have imagined.

And indeed there isand not just in the speculative realm. Not only does poor Lily find herself bothered from all angles by ghostly presences and their varying retributive forces, but she quickly finds out that the living arent to be trifled with, either. So when Lily and Vaz learn that theres more to the history of the family estate than they first thought, the race is on to dig through microfiche archives, scout about for mysterious coins, hunt through the family tree, oh, and befriend a couple of spooks along the way.

Though this is her debut novel,'Lilys Ghosts fits with what I know of Ruby from her more recent work, such as the wonderful'The Wall and the Wing, which was my introduction to her writing. Her writing is sharp and snappy, and the books darknessand theres quite a bit of darkness hereis balanced with plenty of witty levity. The books an annotators dream, and parallels can be drawn all over the place. Take that'between Lilys mother and her almost mindless repeating of her past mistakes, which is contrasted with that of ghost Lola, who spends her (after)life hunting down Steffie, a girl who wronged her when she was alive. For Lola, every girl is Steffie, and no matter what she does, shes cursed to seek out Steffie after Steffie, much as Lilys mother seeks out partner after partner.

Unfortunately, what gives so much richness to Lilys Ghosts is also in a way its downfall. While the Lola element adds some levity, there are times when it also interrupts the plotespecially when it gets swept up in the whirlwind of other minor characters and ghostly presences. Though the many spectral points-of-view add a good splash of humour, and they do come into their own towards the end of the book, they do affect the books focus, particularly since there are already so many balls in the air.

And yet, for all that (and for all the typos in my Kindle edition) its a clever, delicious read, with a fun, twisty ending and character growth all around. I particularly enjoyed watching Lily and Arden negotiate their relationship as the dynamics between the two of them changed alongside the plotArdens sudden protectiveness when Lily shows interest in a boy, for example, and what this means for both Lily and Arden.

Lilys Ghosts is a perfect example of Rubys brand of thoughtful whimsy, and though it perhaps gets a little bit kitchen sink on the reader, its a solid debut.

Rating: star Book Review: Lilys Ghosts by Laura Rubystar Book Review: Lilys Ghosts by Laura Rubystar Book Review: Lilys Ghosts by Laura Rubyblankstar Book Review: Lilys Ghosts by Laura Rubyblankstar Book Review: Lilys Ghosts by Laura Ruby (good)

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  1. Lovely review, Stephanie. Im particularly drawn to characters in any book i read and the contrasts between Lily and Ardens personalities sound like a solid basis for Lilys Ghosts.

    • Stephanie /

      Thanks, Jayne! The characters really do make this one, and I really loved the relationship between Lily and Arden (as well as that between Lily and Vas). I think its very easy for parents to get entirely written out of MG/YA, so its nice to see a relationship thats developed enough to have both its flaws and its highlights.

  2. Beautiful Bloggoing to subscribe by e-mail.

    Love your design and your posts.

    Silvers Reviews

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