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"Every time I get nervous or scared, I remind myself that every good story needs twists and turns. Every heroine needs an adventure," Cass. –City of Ghost
City of Ghosts
by Victoria Schwab
AR Test, Must Read
A screech of wheels. The grip of freezing water. Death. When Cassidy almost drowns, everything changed. She can now enter the world of the dead. To make things stranger, her best friend, Jacob, is a ghost.
Cassidy didn’t think life could get more complicated. Then her parents agree to film a TV show about the world’s most haunted places and the family heads to Edinburgh, Scotland. Restless ghosts haunt the graveyards, castles, and even the pubs. When Cassidy meets another girl who can see the dead, Cassidy realizes she has a lot to learn. Cassidy soon discovers that in a city of ghosts, danger hides in unexpected places.
Victoria Schwab writes a creepy ghost story that is just the right balance of cuteness, chills, and charm. Scotland’s people and lore come to life as Cassidy visits the historical landmarks including Edinburgh Castle and Mary King’s Close. As Cassidy encounters different ghost stories, Scotland’s history unfolds.
Cassidy’s best friend, Jacob, is a fun addition to the cast of characters. Even though Cassidy has told her parents about Jacob, and Cassidy’s parents research haunted places, they do not believe in ghosts. Cassidy’s caring, quirky parents bring ironic humor to the story that middle school readers will understand.
City of Ghosts is the perfect ghost story for younger readers. The easy-to-read text contains short sentences and is a good blend of action, description, and dialogue. The Harry Potter references will delight readers. Although the plot contains only a few surprises, the story is still solid and engaging. Cassidy’s inquisitive mind and courage will draw the reader into the story. Her relationship with Jacob and her parents are an added bonus. City of Ghosts takes the reader on a spooky adventure that will be hard to forget.
- The narrator almost dies while riding her bike. She is on a bridge when “the truck whipped around the curve and hurtled toward me. I swerved out of the way, and so did the truck, tires screeching as my bike slammed into the railing hard enough to make sparks fly.” She goes into the river, where a boy ghost saves her.
- A long time ago, a boy died in a school fire. The fire began during a school play. In a panic, the boy “shuffles on his hands and knees until he reaches the trap door (of the stage). . .He pulls the door up and climbs down into the dark just before a piece of burning set collapse on top of the stage, pining the trapdoor shut.”
- When Cass enters the veil, she sees “a man being hauled toward a platform, where a noose hangs waiting.”
- Cass’s dad explains how some people would rob graves and take the bodies to medical theaters so medical students could practice on them. Two men, “Decided that instead of digging up corpses, they would simply create their own. . . They murdered sixteen people before they were caught and tried . . .Burke was hanged, and then dissected in an anatomy theater, just as his victims had been.”
- While in the veil, The Raven, a ghost who steals children, puts Cass under a spell. Then, “her fingers harden like claws. . . she thrust her hand straight into my chest. Cold rushes through me, a bone-chilling cold, worse than the bottom of the river. It feels like icy fingers wrapped around my heart.” She tears Cass’s life’s ribbon out of her chest. In order to come back alive, The Raven must dig up her corpse and place the life’s ribbon in her chest. Cass attempts to get her life’s ribbon back and the struggle is told over several chapters. Cass crawls into a grave, and when The Raven finds her, “The Raven grabs me and throws me out of the grave. . . I land hard on the ground. . . and hit a gravestone, knocking all the air out of my lungs.”
- While in the veil, Cass sees a ghost who is on a platform, and “a course rope is cinched around his neck.” The execution doesn’t come.
- Ghosts chase after Cass and Jacob. The ghost children “close in, opening their mouths, and instead of different voices coming out, there’s only one. The Raven’s. Her eerie hypnotic song pours from their lips.” The chase takes place over several chapters.
Drugs and Alcohol
- One of the characters has two pints of beer—one for himself and one for his friend’s ghost.
- “Oh god” is used as an exclamation. When Cassidy’s parents want to talk to her, she thinks, “Oh god. I’m going to be a big sister.”
- Jacob, a ghost who is attached to a living girl, is one of the main characters in the story.
- Cass can see ghosts and cross the veil between the living and the dead. The narrator explains, “It takes a lot of spirit power for a ghost to reach across the Veil—the curtain between their world and ours. And the ghosts that have that kind of strength, they tend to be really old and not very nice. . . the dead grow strong on darker things. On pain and anger and regret.”
- Lara casts a spell on a ghost and then reaches in and pulls the ribbon out “. . . The dark thread comes free in her hand, hanging limply from her fingers for a moment before crumbling away to ash. An instant later, the main crumbles, too, just . . . falls apart.” Later Lara explains that she sent him, “To the great unknown? To the silent side? To peace and quiet? Call it what you like. I sent him to the place beyond. Where he’s supposed to be.”
- The Raven puts two teen boys under a spell. The boys “stand chest-deep in the grave. . . Their expressions are glassy, their breaths fogging as they shovel mound after mound of dirt out of the pit. . . “The boys dig up the Raven’s corpse.