Anderson, John David

Riley's Ghost

(2) 4-6 The tone is clear from the first page of Anderson's (Stowaway, rev. 11/21) latest middle-grade novel, as narrator Riley Flynn assesses her classmates: "Sadists. Barbarians. Seventh graders." Riley, a perpetual outsider, has opted out of the class frog dissection, making her the object of practical jokes. At the end of the school day, she's locked in a closet--along with the mutilated frogs--by a group of popular girls. Riley manages to escape but finds herself unable to exit the now-empty school: doors won't open, phones don't work, and the power goes out when she tries pulling the fire alarm. And it turns out there are ghosts keeping Riley company. Max, a middle-aged man who died recently, inhabits one of the dissection specimens, and he's stuck in the school because of his connection to Heather, a student similarly tormented by her classmates. As Riley solves the mystery of Heather, she also explores her own history, with flashbacks revealing how she ended up on the fringes of social structure. The story, in its exploration of female anger with a side of malevolent spirits, is like Carrie for tweens and young teens. Riley is a multilayered and sympathetic protagonist, and Anderson gets the blend of the supernatural and psychological right.


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