Ghost Writer
by Robert Wesley Clement

"When his father died a violent death Ed was about the same age as this kid Ryan. He had cheered the death of an abusive alcoholic who terrorized both he and his mother."

Things aren’t going well for Ryan Trussell. His mother regrets his birth while chain-smoking throughout the day and ignoring any domestic needs. Meanwhile, his father comes home from work to several whiskeys and the solitude of the basement. At his new school, his math teacher immediately identifies him as a troublemaker, even though Ryan is a good student who prefers books to buffoonery. The only bright spot comes in the form of a girl he meets at the public library who likes books and the paranormal, much like Ryan. Ryan‘s best friend, his journal, keeps his secrets. However, even that changes as the two spirits that inhabit the house begin taking a keen interest in his family, and one of them communicates with Ryan through the journal. Both ghosts have experienced a violent death in the house, and they seek release. Small-town secrets, both past and present, will threaten those in Ryan’s circle.

Clement’s novel is part ghost story, part murder mystery, and part family drama. It also works as a generation-spanning historical tale covering the private affairs of seemingly ordinary citizens in rural America. As Clement’s ghosts seek a release from being trapped in the house, the story seems to parallel episodes of the television series Ghost Whisperer. Although the protagonist and his best friend, Violet, cannot see the ghosts in Clement’s story, they are the ones with whom the ghosts choose to communicate and whose help they seek, much like the spirits do with the show’s protagonist. On another level, like Nobody Owens being raised by ghosts in Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book, Ryan is looked after by the ghosts better than his own parents. Gaiman’s ghosts are generally more benevolent toward their charge when compared to the selfish reasons Ryan’s ghosts watch over him, but the result is similar. However, Gaiman’s book is darker and holds more frights whereas Clement’s story is more in line with the Hardy Boys Mysteries if the main characters were aged up a couple years due to the subject matter discussed.

The author of seven other books, Clement displays in his writing the experience that only comes with practice. His pacing is great, and his sentences are easy to read and move the plot forward while keeping a reader engaged with twists and revelations. As he introduces new characters and digs deeper into the history of the ghosts, he weaves the information into the framework skillfully. There are coincidences and occurrences that some readers may feel border on deus ex machina, but most readers won’t see them as too out of place and will accept them without much consideration. As the book seems geared to upper middle-grade or young adult readers, caregivers, teachers, and librarians won’t need to worry about graphic sex, violence, or frights as long as they understand there is mention of murder, suicide, alcoholism, and an extra-marital affair. This book will be great for those who like a strong, relatable protagonist, particularly if they enjoy a little paranormal without the horror and scares, as well as for those who don’t want to solve the mystery but rather take pleasure in watching it unfold.

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