Marly’s Ghost by David Levithan

Received from NetGalley for review.

Marly’s Ghost by David Levithan is a reimagining of a well-known classic, A Christmas Carol. Instead of taking place at Christmas Marly’s Ghost takes place on Valentine’s Day, a day Ben is dreading as it is his first in three years without his girlfriend, Marly. He is understandably down and full of ill feeling, Marly died only four months ago, seriously ill and only sixteen. Ben is visited by three ghosts, Love past, present and death, in order to help him deal with Marly’s death.

It is a well written reimagining, Ben’s voice is realistic, albeit a bit too negative for my liking; he has completely given up on love and life at the beginning of the story, although this is understandable after a death I’m not sure he should have still been so unable to cope. Did he not have family and friends or counselling to help him through? I suppose it all depends on the way you view life, love and death, but I found Ben’s reaction to Marly’s death quite worrying, and why his friends and family weren’t sorting him out with medication or therapy to deal with Marly’s death I don’t know. His voice sounded extremely depressed and lost, like someone who could not cope on any level with the death of a loved one and just didn’t know how to go on. He definitely needed more help coping than he had been given.

I liked the nods to A Christmas Carol, with the characters of Marly, Tiny and Tim, but felt that the voices of the ghosts were very old fashioned, more Dickensian than I would expect in a modern reimagining. When Marly’s ghost visited Ben she didn’t sound like a teenager at all, her way of speaking clashed with the way her character had been presented and I found that it didn’t work for me at all. It seemed to me that just because they (Marly and the other ghosts that visited Ben) were dead they were meant to sound old.

Levithan has written with feeling and clarity, capturing what it is like to lose someone and learn to deal with their death. Overall, Marly’s Ghost, is a sweet and sad reimagining of a classic, incorporating teenage love – love that feels like the most important thing at the time – which is brutally torn apart.

Read: February 14th 2015

3/5 stars

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