GHOST SQUAD, Claribel A. Ortega’s debut novel, was billed as a MG Ghostbusters x Goonies. I get that; there are definitely Easter eggs from both franchises scattered throughout the book.
Except having read it, I’d also add “with pop culture homages from the 80s and today, Dominican mythology, conspiracy theories, girl power, and a shapeshifting fat cat in a denim jacket.”
In other words, this book is cool.
Twelve-year-old Lucely Luna is about to lose her house (home to a tree of the firefly spirits of her dead relatives). Trying to stay put and save her dad’s floundering ghost tour business, she and her best friend accidentally awaken a centuries-old cures that threatens both St. Augustine and the spirit of Lucely’s firefly-grandmother.
Hilarity, witchcraft, matching jean jackets, and all the feels ensue.
To note, while the story should be petrifying given the whole “ancient curse that raises the dead” angle, it’s not actually scary: GHOST SQUAD is action-packed, and a couple pages in the reader is rooting for Lucely.
- This book is just funny, in that insidious, I’m-trying-to-hide-the-humor way. The repartee between BFFs nerdy Lucely and outgoing Syd is effortlessly hilarious; a sassy old lady witch, the ghost of a judge seeking his stolen dentures, and haunted house dweller who runs bogus ghost tours round out the —.
- GHOST SQUAD is definite Girl Power magic, without being in-your-face.
- As an outsider in a Caribbean family, I felt pathological clean freak Tia Milagros’s post-mortem housecleaning tantrums SO HARD.*
Caveats (Kind of)
- A reader who doesn’t speak Spanish will have to hit up a dictionary, as context clues are not always there. We didn’t call them chancletas in Mexico for example…
- It was a bummer to learn that Las Brujas Moradas (the dead antagonists) were a product of Ortega’s imagination. That or my Google skills are waning.
- Lucely is Dominican, and her family’s culture and Dominican mythology a part of the story. That said, race and prejudice don’t play a role.
If we were supposed to judge books by their cover, this one would win Most Gorgeous of the 21st Century.
Thank you to Kidlit Exchange, Scholastic, and of course, Claribel Ortega for the ARC! As always, I received it in exchange for an honest review.
GHOST SQUAD is available now from Scholastic.
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