We know how much teen readers like dark stories, but what about a few feel-good reads for teens in some stockings this year?
Can I suggest ‘Jessica’s Ghost’ – one of this year’s best feel-good teen reads. It is a story that many teens (or tweens) will relate to – it’s about how hard school can be if you don’t fit in. And yes, it does have its dark moments – but it is a wonderfully warm story about friendship and having the courage to be yourself.
The main characters are all those misfits who find school a challenge – Andi, who is an awesome good fighter and puts her fist to anyone who teases her for not being tall and beautiful. Overweight computer-games nerd, Roland, and Francis – who’s serious interest is fashion and who makes dolls clothes.
When Roland is first faced with Francis’s room of over 50 dolls, fabrics, patterns and a sewing maching his comment is: ‘don’t they give you a bit of a hard time about it at school?’ And this is the heart of the tale.
But we haven’t even yet mentioned the ghost!
This is possibly the most unconventional ghost story ever, as Jessica is a confused and lonely ghost who brings the three friends together by the common factor that they are the only people who can see her (we learn why as the story progresses).
Jessica’s big skill as a ghost is that she can help Francis with his fashion obsession by thinking herself into any outfit she can visualise – and making the misfits see that they have more in common than they realise.
The children are all clever and articulate – and all really, really good at something. You just know that once they get out of school how suddenly being bright and unconventional will be a benefit and lead to successful lives – but it is the difficulties of negotiating school that this novel deals with. And just how serious things can get when teenagers feel there is no way out of the problems they face and the loneliness of feeling you are the only one who doesn’t fit in.
Andrew Norris’s comforting voice tells the story, which skilfully steers its way through being fun, while dealing with serious issues.
It is reminiscent of ‘Wonder’ the book about a boy’s gradual acceptance at school when he has a very bad facial disfigurement and I think the readers who enjoyed that will also enjoy this.
Children won’t often find a friendly ghost to help them with their problems – but discovering that children are all different and that everyone can find a way to fit in, is a great message to receive at Christmas.