Publication Date: June 19, 2012
In Secrets of Ghosts by Mardi Orlando, seven children with extraordinary gifts who are living on the outside of society are brought to a school for gifted children. Their mission, they discover, is to try to save ghosted children trapped in the church and dead for more than a century. The church protects them from an ominous shadow but they know that time is running out. Led by Daffodil, the children will have to work together and face their own pasts to save the forgotten children.
I am torn in my opinion of this novel. There are some aspects that I really liked a lot and some that I really disliked. I will let my reader know that Secrets of Ghosts only has nine ratings at Amazon and all are five stars. In some respects, I think that may be deserved. Orlando intersperses the novel with historical “articles” the sponsors of which add a much-needed bit of silly to the heavy atmosphere.
The main characters are deeply damaged kids — all of them — forgotten in life (for the gifted children) and death (the ghosted children). One of the ghosted children, the only one to remember how he died, tells us that one day he slipped away from his orphanage figuring no one would come looking for him and no one did. In a way, this mirrors the lives from which the “gifted” kids come. Daffodil’s parents are dead and she is sent away to a school and though she still has her parents with her in a manner of speaking, she is forgotten in her environment.
Orlando does a fabulous job with the stories of the ghosted children. One little boy plays tic tac doh with ghosted spiders — who, sadly, are not always able to focus on “playing dead” when playing. Another child has a ghosted dog that follows him around for whom he refuses to acknowledge affection. The ghosted boy who remembers how he died has a pet mouse that he intimates he may have killed in death but the mouse is loyal to him and they adore each other. They are not without comfort — just as the living children would be if they relied on each other.
Secrets of Ghosts is a dark and interesting novel and well plotted. Orlando did not seem unwilling to go for the scare factor or get her hands dirty which, I believe, is what makes a good YA novel a crossover genre novel. My main beef with Secrets of Ghosts is that I think it could have been condensed without losing any of complexity or spirit. I also found a few of the characters very one dimensional — though I believe Orlando can be forgiven for that as so many were fully formed and realized and engaged the reader emotionally. There are deep themes running through the storyline that may well appeal to younger children who are gifted readers and who realize that a work of fiction is just that.
Secrets of Ghosts is at times a delightful read and at other times worrisome and frequently led the reader to interact emotionally with the storyline. I would not, as the Amazon reviewers did, give this book five stars but I believe it has earned a very solid four stars. Check it out and see if you agree.
You can read an excerpt and buy Secrets of Ghosts by Mardi Orlando on