City of Ghosts, Victoria Schwab (2018)
Genres: Middle Grade, Paranormal, Fantasy
Victoria Schwab’s first middle grade novel was one I thoroughly enjoyed. This is the story of Cassidy, a young girl who after a near death experience can see ghosts. Her parents are famous ghost hunting team and her best friend Jacob is a ghost. She’s not really your average young girl. I really liked her character from the off, also the countless Harry Potter references certainly helped. I mean really, this book was littered with HP references and I loved it!
This was such a quick read, the story was easy to follow and really well written, as you’d expected from Victoria Schwab. I liked the quirkiness of the main character and her family, it’s not often you read a story about ghosts that isn’t meant to be a horror/haunting. It felt unique and different and I really enjoy that. I liked the family dynamic, you’ve got the believer, the skeptic and the girl who can see ghosts.
“Embrace your strange, dear daughter. Where’s the fun in being normal?”
Cassidy’s best friend Jacob is a ghost, I love their relationship. It’s not at all romantic, phew, they just get on really well. She’s protective of him, she needs him and he needs her. It’s nice to see such a close bond formed between them that remains throughout the whole book. I’m interested to learn more about Jacob, I know it was deliberate that we’re left in the dark about him, but I want to know why he’s there!
Set in Scotland, this book showed me a setting I have never been to (but desperately want to). I loved reading about the streets and ruins of Scotland, it made me want to visit even more. As a Victoria Schwab fan I know how much Scotland means to her and this passion completely came across in her writing. However I have seen this book criticised for the lack of Scottish characters despite the country it is set in, Christine at Wee Reader pointed this out. It’s a shame to miss out on including more characters from this part of the UK.
There was a really good mix of serious moments and comical ones in this book. For example the main character is constantly perplexed about the different words used in Britain vs America for things. I really liked reading these parts, as someone from England I don’t think twice about the words I use to describe things. It was funny to look at the language used in this book and see the small differences we have in Western cultures. When you’re younger you don’t really see the differences in people, skin colour, accents, age, etc; but I feel like Cassidy is on the cusp of noticing new things in people, such as their choice of words.
This book has been criticised for being too simple or too short, but I’d like to remind any potential readers that this is a Middle Grade novel. The main target audience is between age 8 to 12, so please bear that in mind as you read it. I don’t think it reads like a children’s book in the sense of being too simple and boring. I love Victoria Schwab’s writing so I don’t think I could ever find it dull.