Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Ghosts of Ashbury High by Jaclyn Moriarty

Publisher: Scholastic
Pages: 480
Series or Stand Alone: Book 4 in the Ashbury/Brookfield series
SummaryBestselling author Jaclyn Moriarty returns to Ashbury High for a story of romance, mysterious new classmates, and the terrors of making it through your final year of high school.This is the story of Amelia and Riley, bad kids from bad Brookfield High who have transferred to Ashbury High for their final year. They've been in love since they were fourteen, they go out dancing every night, and sleep through school all day. And Ashbury can't get enough of them.Everyone's trying to get their attention; even teachers are dressing differently, trying to make their classes more interesting. Everyone wants to be cooler, tougher, funnier, hoping to be invited into their cool, self-contained world.

I've been reading Jaclyn Moriarty's Ashbury/Brookfield series since my early high school years. I managed to read them in the wrong order (The Year of Secret Assignments, The Murder of Bindy McKenzie, Feeling Sorry for Celia, and The Ghosts of Ashbury High. That's 2, 3, 1, 4) but the good thing about Jaclyn Moriarty's books is that it doesn't matter; they each work as a stand alone novel. It's a series with recurring characters, but you don't need to know all the details of the books to follow their stories. That was awesome, considering I read The Murder of Bindy McKenzie over three years ago.
The Ghosts of Ashbury High once again follows Cass, Lyd, and Em, the protagonists of The Year of Secret Assignments (#2) as they meet new mysterious students Riley and Amelia. Em is attempting to prove that ghosts are wandering the halls at Ashbury, while Lyd attempts to get over Seb, the boyfriend from The Year of Secret Assignments that she broke up with. Riley and Amelia seem to have their own secret agenda going on, while some of the more annoying faculty members are campaigning against them.
Jaclyn Moriarty's books are so cool. She unravels her storylines through emails, school assignments, and personal correspondence rather than straight up narratives. Her technique allows her to avoid the tell-not-show problem.
Past characters were weaved in seamlessly--there was no long-winded explanation of past exposition for Em, Cass, and Lyd, only a few sentences here and there alluding to some past history they had. The same for more minor characters like Seb and Bindy.
Part of the novel includes the teens writing their own gothic stories for their English classes, making ghosts a recurring topic. This creates a big question: are Riley and Amelia real ghosts or metaphorical? At first, I was kind of confused about their storyline, which I'm sure is intentional to create the above question. My one complaint about this novel comes from the length--I think part of the reason I was getting confused was that it felt like a good long time before any actual information was revealed about the two of them. I would have preferred to get a little more information about them quicker than I did.
All and all, Jaclyn Moriarty created another winner in the Ashbury/Brookfield stories. The Ghosts of Ashbury High takes on old characters and new to create a cool mystery revealed through different assignments, blog posts, chat conversations, and other sundry documents. The voices of the characters are all wildly different, almost like different people are writing them (skills, Moriarty. That takes mad skills.) I recommend reading the entire Ashbury/Brookfield series, especially if you're looking for some reads for the Australian author challenge!

Rating: 4.5 - really good

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