Emil has always lived in the shadows of others. His older brother, Ethan, was the popular guy at Caramoor, the private prep school they attend. No matter what Ethan did, he always made it look effortless, and Emil feels that he pales in comparison. However, when Emil’s mother dies of cancer, Ethan takes off. He’s just suddenly gone, and no one knows where he is. Only a postcard in the mail reading “Later” tells Emil that he’s still alive, somewhere out there. For the first time in Emil’s life, he is completely alone. His mother can never come back. His father emotionally checked out quickly after her death. Ethan, who Emil has idolized since a child despite his jealousy, was the only person he had left.
Then Emil finds a key, a master key that can unlock every door in the school. Ethan had received it years before, probably for being the coolest guy there, but he left it behind. Emil decides that the key represents his chance to make himself a legend at Caramoor. When his father goes out of town for business, Emil sneaks over to the school and makes a temporary shelter for himself in an attic space. The rest of the night, he explores the campus, but instead of causing trouble or leaving a legacy, he mostly just takes books from the enormous library. Emil loves the way it feels to be the only person in the school, like he is in control of something in his life. And then he meets Jade.
Jade is the art instructor’s daughter who spends her evenings locked away in the art studio making pottery. Emil is blown away by her beauty and the fact that she actually seems to enjoy his company. Emil decides to keep Jade a secret from everyone, even his best friend, Soma. Jade becomes a part of his mysterious after-hours world in Caramoor. At last, he is someone besides Ethan’s little brother or the kid with the dead mom. Here, he is free from the shadows. But Emil’s not the only one hiding out at Caramoor; Jade has her reasons for sneaking around as well. Together, the two of them must face the outside world, despite the tough decisions and emotional problems that await them. Emil already has the key to everything inside of Caramoor; now he must find the key to letting go of his own past.
“Ordinary Ghosts” is an incredible story that deals with great losses and learning to cope with them. Emil keeps his true feelings hidden from everyone, but once he learns to be honest with himself and those around him, he truly begins to heal. The story is poignant, and the dialogue is refreshingly witty, keeping the story from falling into melodrama. This is a fantastic novel for any teen. It has a candid yet touching storyline that will keep readers locked inside Emil’s world until the very last page.
Have you read “Ordinary Ghosts?” Discuss your thoughts on the book below.