August 5, 2022
Genre/Categories/Setting: Contemporary and Realistic Fiction (with historical references), (mature) Middle Grade (6th grade +)/Young Adult/Adult, Own Voices, Chicago, Diverse Read, African American
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Jerome is twelve and has been shot by the police because the officer thought he was holding a real gun and felt his life was in danger. The community is outraged. Jerome returns as a ghost and has a front-row seat to the grief of his parents and the trial proceedings. He is invisible to everyone except Sarah, the daughter of the officer. Jerome also meets other Ghost Boys from different historical times who suffered untimely and unjust deaths and continue to “bear witness.”
Ghost Boys is a gently written, reflective, compelling, thought-provoking, convicting, and powerful story.
It’s difficult to find words for this review because the reading experience is personal and each reader will be impacted differently. I can simply say that this was an emotional and convicting reading experience.
I greatly appreciate the author’s structure as the story alternates between the Life and Death experiences of Jerome. We see how his death impacts his family and his community. I know the author has a message for the reader, but I never felt it was heavy-handed or pedantic. She trusts her readers to come to their own conclusions and understandings. The paradox is that she accomplishes this in a powerful AND gentle way. It’s as if she comes alongside the reader, puts her arm around her or him, and quietly shares this deeply personal and meaningful story.
I love the character of Sarah and what she represents in the story. As a white reader, her character represents how white people might feel or react to Jerome’s all-too-realistic story. I love her compassion, insight, and actions, and how she challenges each of us to “bear witness” in whatever large or small ways we are able.
Highly recommended for all readers (mature Middle Grade, 6th grade +). This unforgettable story will be an excellent book for discussion between family members, classrooms, friends, or book clubs. Please consider the content and your own sensitivities.
If you’ve read it, I’d love to hear your thoughts. If you are an “own voices” reviewer, please leave the link to your review in the comments so that I can visit your review and link it here.
Content Consideration: Gun violence, death of a child, bullying, grief
My Rating: 5 Stars
Meet the Author, Jewell Parker Rhodes
Dr. Jewell Parker Rhodes is an award-winning and New York Times bestselling author and educator for both youth and adults. She is the author of seven books for children including the New York Times bestsellers Ghost Boys and Black Brother, Black Brother, both named Amazon’s Best Children’s Books of the Year. Her other books include Paradise on Fire, Towers Falling, and the Louisiana Girls Trilogy: Ninth Ward, Sugar, and Bayou Magic.
Jewell is the author of six adult novels: Voodoo Dreams, Magic City, Douglass’ Women, Season, Moon, and Hurricane, as well as the memoir Porch Stories: A Grandmother’s Guide to Happiness, and two writing guides, Free Within Ourselves: Fiction Lessons for Black Authors and The African American Guide to Writing and Publishing Non-Fiction.
Jewell has won the American Book Award, the Black Caucus of the American Library Award for Literary Excellence, and the Jane Addams Peace Association Book Award.
Jewell regularly visits schools, a speaker at colleges and conferences. The driving force behind all of her work is to inspire social justice, equity, and environmental stewardship.
Jewell is the Founding Artistic Director and Piper Endowed Chair at the Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing at Arizona State University. She was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Carnegie-Mellon University. Born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, she currently lives in Seattle.
Is Ghost Boys your TBR or have you read it?
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