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.
This is a quick review.
Characters. We meet a lot of characters in this story, with Jerome’s family and Carlos, even the bullies and the leader of the Ghost Boys, but I’m going to only focus on Jerome because he is who the story follows.
Jerome is the main character. We see the story through his eyes and the good thing is, is that while he’s a ghost (which isn’t a good thing), he gets to be everywhere. He’s a smart kid, kind, but he has a system, when he goes to school he’s really bullied by these kids and he’s used to it, but he has ways to avoid it. It’s sad really but understandable. When Carlos is introduced, no one reacts to be his friend, so Jerome does, and even when he doesn’t want to have Carlos around to make the bullying worse for him, he does. Later, when he meets Sarah and she can see him, he finds a bit of comfort in her even though they argued a lot at first since her dad was the officer that killed him. As the reader, you’ll feel bad for him because he was 12 and he had a life ahead of him, a life full of love and he has to watch his family suffer. His character feels like a real kid.
Story Importance. There is a lot going on in this book. Not a lot of action or anything, but a lot to think about. Characters deal with death, racism, bullying life after death, cultural traditions and it’s just so current that I think anyone can read this and completely identify with some aspect of Jerome’s life.
Emotional. I legit teared up twice and I think I kind of cried. Not sure. But it’s a very emotional story. In the first part, you learn about his death, there’s no easing into it, but when you get to meet Jerome before his death, meet his family and his relationship with them, it’s sad. Plus, Carlos feels this heavy guilt about Jerome’s death and when he talks with the grandmother at the end, it was a really moving moment. Also, Jerome can see into Emmett’s past, so his story is told again and that’s always sad and it makes me emotional regardless. Even if there aren’t any tears, I think readers would be moved.
Historical Connections. Being that the story is about the death of black boys at the hands of police, or violence, the inclusion of Emmett Till really helps put things into perspective. When Jerome first sees Emmett, we have no idea who he is, but he was my first thought (I didn’t really read the synopsis, so I didn’t realize Emmett Till was going to be in the story). There are also mentions of Tamir Rice and I think Jerome also sees Trayvon Martin’s ghost walking listening to music or something. In ways, it’s eerie because we know about these deaths but because Jerome was a victim of police brutality and racism, his story is connected to so many who came before him. I thought that was unique and it also gave Jerome things to consider and think about instead of just watching his family grieve for him.
Heavy Handed. This was the only thing I could really think of when it came to what I might think would be a “negative”. I don’t think it’s that big of a deal, but I can imagine some people feeling too “pushed down” by the story. It’s an important story, but I think with what Jerome goes through, what Sarah deals with and what he learns from Emmett, that it could feel preachy.
Overall, while it took me a while to finish the book, I think it’s a great story for young readers to read and even understand what’s going on in the world today. I think the story is handled well and that the author doesn’t shy away from talking about grief, but also including how different cultures honor the dead. I think Jerome, being a young boy, gives the perspective of someone different as compared to teenagers or parents like in the other books of this nature. The story is importance, and I think the story is handled well. It’s emotional and holds historical importance. I can understand why someone might find it heavy-handed in the topic, and while I agree to a small extent, I think the author finds a balance.
Rating: 4 out 5 stars.
Check out Ghost Boys if you haven’t. It’s a powerful story told through the lens of a young kid. Give your young readers something to relate to but also understand the tragedy in the world today.
Next Book: I don’t know lol, I have a ton of things to read on my nightstand.