Jaclyn Moriarty – The Ghosts of Ashbury High

 Author: Jaclyn Moriarty

Title: The Ghosts of Ashbury High (Dreaming of Amelia in Australia)
Published: June 2010
Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books
Length: 480 pages
Genre: YA fiction
Why I picked it up: Love the series
Rating: 4 stars
Challenges: Global | 100+  
Buy: IndieBound | Chapters | Check your local bookstore!

It is always a rare treat to find a YA novel that I can enjoy and devour. There are a very few YA authors that I love. In fact, there are two: John Green and Jaclyn Moriarty. Green has a very prominent internet presence, whereas Moriarty does not and this is how I did not know she had a new Ashbury novel out until over a year after it was published. I am a bad fan.

I first encountered Moriarty in grade six or seven when I received The Year of Secret Assignments as an Easter present. I adored it, for its writing style, the narratives that build on one another through little clues, distinct characters and increasingly dark plot. The novel was a hit among my friends. A few years later, The Murder of Bindy MacKenzie was published. I did a book report on it in high school. It was with this second Moriarty book that I saw how all her books interconnect – major characters in one novel have minor roles in another, past events may be hinted at, characters you’ve heard about in the past novels finally make proper appearances, etc. Finally, I realized there was another Ashbury book, the first one: Looking for Celia. I read that one as well (though I didn’t think it wasn’t quite as great as The Year of Secret Assignments). Now, five years after I read the last Ashbury book, I have stumbled across a new one and I think this one is the best yet.

All the aspects of The Year of Secret Assignments (writing style, characterization, plot twists, increasingly dark plot, interconnected but distinct narratives) I adored so much come into full play in The Ghosts of Ashbury High. Moriarty has perfected her craft and method. It is lovely to actually be able to see an author’s improvement over a series of novels. Secret Assignments was great, but Ghosts feels like story that contains highly refined elements that are Moriarty’s trademark. The characters were all so well-written with subtleties that made them feel real (I’m not sure if that makes sense but it’s the best way I can think of to describe the character aspects that I loved seeing so much). Also brilliantly written was the subtle intertwining of the character’s narratives. Come to think of it, what I loved was the subtlety of Moriarty’s writing. Everything she does, she did so well in this story in such a subtle, quietly tucked into the story way. the story and the characters build, build, build, so steadily; Moriarty sucks you into the book like a slow moving whirlpool might put suck you down to the ocean floor (It’s exam time, don’t expect good descriptive sentences from me now =.=). 

Finally, I would like to add: Don’t let the ugly cover (or the vague, teenage-y description) fool you! I suppose the cover is meant to capitalize on the trend of the love for all things supernatural? I loved the old American/Canadian cover designs (see The Year of Secret Assignments with the fire alarm, and The Murder of Bindy MacKenzie with the locker). As for the description, if I wasn’t already so familiar with Moriarty’s work I definitely would not have picked up this book. This also happened with Secret Assignments: when I received it as a gift my first thought was ‘Why did parents think I would like this book??’ [Coincedentally I also received American Idiot as an Easter gift, thought the same thing, now Green Day is one of my favourite bands.] I wonder how many other readers are out there like me who could potentially love these books but were put off by the cover or description…