Book Review: Ghost Squad by Claribel A. Ortega
Title: Ghost Squad
Author: Claribel A. Ortega
Released: April 07, 2020 (Hardcover)
Description: Coco meets Stranger Things with a hint of Ghostbusters in this action-packed supernatural fantasy. For Lucely Luna, ghosts are more than just the family business.
Shortly before Halloween, Lucely and her best friend, Syd, cast a spell that accidentally awakens malicious spirits, wreaking havoc throughout St. Augustine. Together, they must join forces with Syd’s witch grandmother, Babette, and her tubby tabby, Chunk, to fight the haunting head-on and reverse the curse to save the town and Lucely’s fireflies before it’s too late. With the family dynamics of Coco and the action-packed adventure of Ghostbusters, Claribel A. Ortega delivers both a thrillingly spooky and delightfully sweet debut novel.
Please keep in mind that this review contains spoilers for the entire book. Read with caution. If you click on the “Read More”, it is under the impression you either don’t care about spoilers or you’ve already read the book.
By the nature of this book, this is clearly more geared towards kids and adults, should they choose to read as well. And it is fun and simple to read. There’s heartwarming family moments, a friendship with a real history to it, and the connections between the past, present, and future.
However, there are a few things I must point out as an adult reader. While this story could be read anytime, it would be heightened during Halloween time for the youngsters. However, I feel that a lot of the pacing really dragged out either too much or not enough. A lot of the scenes in this aren’t as fleshed out as much as they should’ve been and other scenes where it didn’t need to be fleshed out as much was. It was a bit hard to get through these scenes and it was disappointing when the book wouldn’t elaborate more on certain scenes.
However, I was under the impression this was strictly going to be Lucely and Syd’s journey (though more likely Lucely’s since she’s the main point of view character), and then Babette came on the scene. And then she stole the show. When she left, I felt how much of a hole she left without her to essentially guide and provided exposition to the two girls. Granted, it’s a nice message that one should absolutely turn to your elders for advice, guidance, and sweet jackets, but maybe let the girls learn on their own. Or at least, raise the stakes a bit higher earlier on than later.
Lucely’s own power is interesting enough and Syd being a witch as well could’ve been shown a bit earlier as well. As much as I liked Babette, there just didn’t seem to be as high stakes for Syd as it was for Lucely. It’s only her home that’s going to be gone and the town’s stakes didn’t really feel that high for me. Even with the disappearance of the mayor, though that was another disappointing thread that wasn’t really explored, it still didn’t make me worry about the town’s state all that much. I was only really worried about Lucely’s home and the fireflies.
Another detail that was missing was the lack of details. I believe one of the reasons the pacing and cadence of the story felt so off was because of the details. Again, some things felt there were too many details but other times, not enough. It didn’t really seem focused a lot of the time on what it’s trying to be. There’s a lot of pop culture references in it which would be normal with these young kids, I don’t have much of an issue with that, but what I do have an issue with is the fact that the pop culture references seemed a bit much at times and almost felt more of a list of what the author likes rather than moving the plot along. In other words, it got distracting.
One of the biggest places of contention I have is the end. This is where everything comes to a head in terms of the problems. The ending is rushed, Babette is down for the count for a few minutes while Lucely takes over her magic, only for everything to be wrapped up nicely and gently with no real repercussions. I get it because the big bad villain was trying to get rid of the mayor to get rid of the witches, but there was no real hint about it. There was no real mystery. In fact, this is where the details could’ve come in handy to pepper in clues as to who it was and maybe give her a bit of sympathy.
Or maybe not.
This review sounds harsher than how I actually feel about it because I really wanted it to be a comfy story about two girls saving both a home and a town while learning cool histories on the way but it did not come off that way to me. And that disappointed me. It disappointed me on how awkward the pacing and the lack and abundance of details were. It disappointed me that I couldn’t see past Babette and her Goonies-named cats to learn more about Syd’s own natural abilities.
But again, I want to stress that I did absolutely enjoy this book at the end of the day. Younger readers would have more fun reading this book than sassy adult me. Younger readers might absolutely have more fun reading this since their imaginations are more vast and could fill in the gaps where I had seen them. For all it’s disappointed me, I saw potential in a story about family, friends, and beloved fireflies.
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Posted on March 8, 2021, in ★★★☆☆ – 3 Stars, Book Reviews, Book Series, Oneshots and tagged claribel a. ortega, fantasy, ghost squad, middle grade, paranormal, witch. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.