Friday, October 30, 2020

Freeform Friday: Ghost Boys - Jewell Parker Rhodes

Summary: Twelve-year-old Jerome is shot by a police officer who mistakes his toy gun for a real threat. As a ghost, he observes the devastation that’s been unleashed on his family and community in the wake of what they see as an unjust and brutal killing.

Soon Jerome meets another ghost: Emmett Till, a boy from a very different time but similar circumstances. Emmett helps Jerome process what has happened, on a journey towards recognizing how historical racism may have led to the events that ended his life. Jerome also meets Sarah, the daughter of the police officer, who grapples with her father’s actions. (synopsis and image from

My ReviewI knew this book was going to be hard.

Not in terms of reading, as it was a very quick, easy read.

But not easy to digest.

The strongest theme in this story is that the living must make changes.  The dead cannot do anything but inspire from beyond the grave.  It is up to those of us still here to do what is right.

Jerome's voice is so strong.  The clipped way he narrates, and the short chapters, carry the story along in a fast-paced way through both his life and his death (and I like how the story switches back and forth between the two in a non-linear fashion).  The confused, disillusioned way he drifts from scenario to scenario gave me the feeling of being dead, being a ghost and being helpless and watching everything go on around you.  It was unnerving and sad.

He is able to see life carrying on.  Able to see all sides of the story.  Able to meet a living white girl who can see him, and who is struggling with her father's actions, trying to find her voice to make change so that it doesn't happen again.  Jerome gets to see his friend Carlos taking care of his family in the aftermath, the caring, compassionate deeds he does that weaves him in as a member to help them heal.  Jerome meets Emmett Till, the black boy brutally murdered in the 50s, who walks Jerome through his purpose of being a ghost boy, of being that emblem of remembrance for those of us still living.  There are so many ghost boys and girls.  

Only the living can make a difference.

It doesn't matter how you make that difference.  It just matters that you are working to make one.  

My Rating: Four Stars

For the sensitive reader: Deals with the death of the main character, and how he was shot by a policeman.  Talks about the horrible death of Emmett Till.  Prior to his death, Jerome was badly bullied, sees drug dealers on his way to school, and at night worries when he hears gunshots outside.

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