Title: The Ghost of Caroline Wald
Author: Michael Henderson
Rating: 4/5 Stars
I’m not sure how to start this post without diving too deep into the story, so instead I’ll let you read the summary from Good Reads before starting my review:
“Frankie Johns, newly 18 and feeling like an adult, does not know what to do with himself. He wants to go to college, but has been rejected by his school of choice. He wants to be treated as an adult, but his parents still treat him like a child.
When he sees the ghost of a teenage girl in an abandoned house, he is set on a path of horror and conflict. The ghost convinces him to dig up her grave and retrieve her diary, which is full of bizarre entries. It seems the ghost is not what she appears.
His parents kick him out, he is in trouble with the police, and the ghost is jealous of his new girlfriend.
This is a story of a young man struggling to come of age, find himself, and to deal with the unknown forces of the world.”
As can be seen in the summary, this is a story about a young man Frankie John. He just turned 18 and thinks he’s an adult….yes I’m basically reading off the summary there. I could keep going on with that in this review because it’s telling much more of the story than I feel a summary should. I personally just read the summary for the first time before starting this review. I don’t have a rule to read summaries before or after a book but I ended up not getting around to it till now, and I’m glad I waited.
The story is there all in the summary but only some bits of detail left out. This doesn’t take away from the story, I guess, even though it is common for a summary that goes too into the book to do. I have read many that tell me the ENTIRE book and then I don’t feel like giving it a chance.
I’ll get to the review aspect now since I don’t want to dwell on the summary more than I already have.
The title of Henderson’s book is The Ghost Story of Caroline Wald. That’s obvious, but the reason I wanted to point this out is because I feel there should be a different title to this book. While most of the first half of this book does lean toward it being a “ghost story,” there is much more to it that I feel should be emphasized. The ghost element takes the backseat for a good section of this book, then loses steam in the climax, almost as if it were a minor plot element instead of the major reason for this book, as the title suggests. Also the title suggests, in my opinion, that Caroline Wald’s character be more of a main character. She’s a ghost, plays a big role, then gets downplayed just like the entire ghost element.
This sounds like I didn’t enjoy the book, but I did…to an extent. I put the title in the back of my mind, I also pushed the gnawing fact of the ghosts being downplayed behind me. It helped me enjoy the better parts of this book. There is a teenage love story here. Criminal activity on the part of Frankie and his friends. There is also the overall, what I feel is the main focus of the story, journey of Frankie out of ignorance into manhood.
I enjoyed all this enough to keep reading the book and push my rating, that was around a 3.6 to a 4 by the end of the book.
I do wish to point out some of the things that irked me. Frankie has a best friend Dan. He’s not the brightest boy around. He’s a “typical jock” almost. But when Frankie is talking to him during their adventures in the first part of the book, Frankie seems to talk to him like either an old man or trying to sound “cool.” Many of the bits of dialogue Frankie has include the word “son.” He’s the same age as Dan, he doesn’t need to sound like a prick. It made me dislike hearing Frankie talk. I know this was somewhat the point. It showed that Frankie had a complex that he was better than his friend, and ultimately even his parents, but I think it took it a bit too far.
Once he meets Elizabeth, Dan disappears for too long for my taste. At that point the so do the ghosts as a main attraction. Frankie also talks more “normal” around here, which got me to like his character more, but I was caught between trying to figure out which Frankie was the fake Frankie.
But that’s only a minor detail I can overlook for the benefit of the story as a whole. I can overlook that I can’t even tell if this was for young adults or adults. The way it’s written, i.e not enough “scary” detail given even during the “scary” parts makes me lean toward a younger audience. All the while, some of the dialogue and brutal violence inflicted through the use of nails and rocks (weapons of the good and bad characters in the book) make it more an adult book. It doesn’t matter either way I guess, but it would be nice to not have it confuse me. That could also just be my reading of it, while someone else wouldn’t find a problem.
Most of what I had to say “negatively” about this book are minor compared to the overall enjoyment. It was a good, easy read. That’s all ready. There wasn’t anything earth shattering, but there wasn’t anything overly wrong about the book.
Pick it up for a “spooky” weekend read sometime. That’s what I suggest.