Catrina and her family are moving to the coast of Northern California because her little sister, Maya, is sick. Cat isn’t happy about leaving her friends for Bahía de la Luna, but Maya has cystic fibrosis and will benefit from the cool, salty air that blows in from the sea. As the girls explore their new home, a neighbor lets them in on a secret: There are ghosts in Bahía de la Luna. Maya is determined to meet one, but Cat wants nothing to do with them. As the time of year when ghosts reunite with their loved ones approaches, Cat must figure out how to put aside her fears for her sister’s sake – and her own. – Goodreads
I loved several things about Ghosts. First and foremost was the straightforward presentation of Maya’s illness. The feeding tube, the vest, the coughing – all shown in a way that did not garner pity, but simply informed. There is no effort made to make Maya’s illness seem less than it is, but the illness does not define Maya either. It’s fairly quickly established that while she is sick – and it does affect her day-to-day functioning – Maya is a normal girl. She’s a bit bratty, full of fun, and living her life to the fullest. Even when it lands her in the hospital.
The other big thing I liked was the relationship between the sisters in Ghosts. It’s obvious that Cat loves Maya, and she’ll always do what’s best for her. There was one panel that just made me stop what I was doing, and smile. In it, Maya and Cat are going somewhere, and both are freezing. Cat takes off her sweatshirt and gives it to Maya, because she just naturally takes care of her. It’s a simple gesture, but one that communicates so much. But it’s also apparent that even though she’ll always do the right thing, she doesn’t have to like it. The whole moving to a new town and leaving all her friends behind, especially so.
None of the family is perfect. The stress that they are under due to Maya’s illness is obvious. Maya’s questions that she comes out with can be a punch in the gut. My child doesn’t have cystic fibrosis, so I can’t speak to the accuracy of the portrayal of CF. But the disease she does have means I’ve heard some heart-wrenching questions from her. Maya and her family seem very believable to me in those respects.
However, I felt like the inclusion of actual ghosts a little distracting. I don’t know anything about Day of the Dead or Spanish culture, so I don’t know what the particular beliefs are there. All I know is that the ghosts interacting with everyone as a matter of fact lessened my overall enjoyment. I think part of me wanted to read Ghosts as the illustrated account of a family dealing with a child’s terminal illness. So the non-fiction and fiction portions really didn’t mix well in my head.
The illustrations didn’t appeal to me at all in Ghosts. They were simple and fairly easy to follow, but incredibly bland.
Still, overall, I have a positive view of the book. It’s a quick read that’s emotionally engaging. The family dynamics are wonderful. The good definitely outweighs the bad in Ghosts. It’s a good read.