When I worked at the school library in Louisiana I could not keep Raina Telgemeier’s books on the shelf. The books are just as popular here in Minnesota. I love her books Smile and Sisters and I enjoyed Drama. I had high hopes for Ghosts and I’m not sure they were filled.
Firstly, I find Telgemeier’s best books are those based off her life (Smile and Sisters), and Ghosts is a completely fictionalized story of a girl who moves to a new town for her sister’s health. This particular town, Bahia de la Luna, takes ghosts seriously and loves celebrating Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead.
I don’t know if it’s because I read this book too quickly (wanted to get it back into circulation), or if it is actually a fault of the book, but the connection between the two sisters (Cat and Maya) felt limp. We see Cat’s struggle with the move and her struggles with Maya’s Cystic Fibrosis, and how that affects her family. However, it all seems very surface level.
Secondly, the way Telgemeier represents Dia de los Muertos feels very off to me. I don’t celebrate the holiday myself and my knowledge stems from middle and high school Spanish class, so by no means do I claim to be an expert. In my opinion it seems like Telgemeier borrowed the celebration of Dia de los Muertos as a vehicle for her story about sisters and sickness and death. As far as I recall, ghosts don’t love orange soda and Dia de los Muertos isn’t about finding a 17th century dead boyfriend, like Cat’s new friend does, nor is it a Halloween type of celebration.