By Tonya Hurley
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Charlotte Usher only feels invisible. That is, until she chokes on a gummi bear just after becoming her crush's science partner. But she doesn't move on - the Afterlife is just more classes. And Charlotte's sure her unfinished business is her relationship with Damen. (Some of the other ghosts are fed up with her clearly deluded behaviour.)
Charlotte discovers a way to get what she wants with the help of independent Scarlet, the younger sister of Petula - Damen's girlfriend. Of course, Scarlet may decide she has different goals. Who wouldn't, when Charlotte is such a whiny brat? I really had trouble identifying with her.
I don't mind books that show teenagers as self-obsessed. That's accurate, in my opinion. But all the kids in Dead Ed have one track minds. The end implies this may be a consequence of the lessons they need to learn, but throughout the book it's resented as one of the satirical elements. I don't think teenagers are that shallow. None of them (and this is pointed out) even think about their parents! Charlotte's entire focus in the book is popularity and Damen. She's a total stalker.
GHOSTGIRL was fun, but Charlotte really bothered me. The end did give me hope for the next book. It is about Charlotte's growth; I just wished it started earlier. It felt like it came on suddenly at the end in order to finish the story nicely. I did like most of the supporting characters, especially Scarlet.
And I can't ignore the design. This is a gorgeous book. Normally I buy paperbacks, but this hardcover is hard to resist. For those who haven't seen it in person, the interior design is quite lovely as well.
GHOSTGIRL: HOMECOMING picks up a little while after GHOSTGIRL, when Charlotte has had some time to get used to the next phase of her afterlife. Not that there's much for her to get used to. She's supposed to be counseling troubled teens, but her phone never rings. The one day it does, her frenemy roommate answers it.
Scarlet has her own troubles: Petula developed a staph infection from a pedicure. (Why this causes other girls to go to that salon, I don't know. Even if you want to show tragically romantic solidarity you wouldn't go somewhere known to be contaminated with a fatal infection.) Scarlet knows Charlotte is the only person who can help her sister. What she doesn't know is how to contact her now that she's moved on.
I enjoyed this one more than GHOSTGIRL. Charlotte did develop as a character, though it takes awhile to realize how much. I like that Tonya Hurley avoids writing big misunderstandings between Damen and Scarlet. Scarlet knows what it means to him to see his ex-girlfriend in a coma, but she can also know what she means to him.
I was kind of afraid that this one would be a slog after feeling iffy about GHOSTGIRL, but I really did enjoy it. The characterization could be more subtle, even considering the books are supposed to be satire. They do have more depth in GHOSTGIRL: HOMECOMING, which goes so far is to reveal the (somewhat) softer side of Petula. If I had the choice, I might even skip the first book and go straight to the second.