Ghosts by Raina Telgemeier
Publication Date: September 13th, 2016
If you give them just a tiny bit of yourself, you will never be lacking in spirits to call your friends.
It’s easy for Cat to get swept away with the responsibility of being the older sister to Maya, a spirited girl with cystic fibrosis. When their family moves to Bahia de la Luna in Northern California, tales of ghosts surround the girls as they explore their new stomping grounds. Cat doesn’t like the “threat” of ghosts because they hit a little too close to home, but Maya can’t wait to meet one! As Dia de los Muertos approaches, Cat knows she must find a way to put her fears behind her, not only for herself, but for Maya, too.
I have enjoyed every Telgemeier graphic novel that I’ve read so far. I have given copies of her books to my younger cousins and watched with joy as they became readers after experiencing her graphic novels. So it was no wonder how excited I was when I heard that she was writing another GN- one that focuses around diverse cultures and characters.
Maya and Cat move to Bahia de la Luna in northern California because their parents believe that it will help improve Maya’s health. She suffers from cystic fibrosis and must be cared for in very specific ways. Upon arrival, the sisters quickly learn that ghosts frequently appear to the residents of this foggy seaside city.
Cat and Maya both have different opinions about ghosts; Cat sees them as frightening reminders of one’s impending death, specifically her sister’s, whereas Maya is excited about the possibility of being able to reunite with your loved ones after death. Maya’s health reminds her constantly that she might not live long enough to learn how to drive, experience her first kiss, or even become an adult. Unlike Cat, who is frightened by death, Maya has learned to accept it and the ghosts help her understand that death isn’t necessarily the end. I was impressed by how authentic Telgemeier’s writing was in regards to those who suffer from cystic fibrosis. Personally, I don’t know much about the disease other than it’s negative effects on the respiratory and digestive systems. Maya’s character is incredibly resolved and pragmatic for someone so young, and it is in large part because of her illness. I empathized with Maya when she couldn’t go trick or treating with her sister because doing so might have very negative effects on her health. Yet, she remains optimistic and lively. Cat feels immense responsibility for her younger sister and has become rather rigid in her personality. She regrets moving away from her friends but feels guilty because she knows it’s for a good reason. Immediately, you can see the fissure that’s coming between the two sisters because of their mutual struggles and fears.
Ironically, it’s death that repairs the bond between the two sisters. Telgemeier’s graphic novel revolves around the Mexican holiday, Dia de los Muertos, a holiday that celebrates and welcomes dead family members back to their home. Food is prepared, drinks are offered, and the families prepare for the return of their ancestor’s spirit. As Maya and Cat both connect with their Mexican roots through this cultural holiday, we begin to see the two understand each other better and repair their connection.
Dia de los Muertos, itself, is about remaining connected to those who have passed on, and Ghosts beautifully takes on a wide range of familial issues and explores what it means to love and be loved by your family, both living and dead.
Thank you to Scholastic for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review.