Book review

Dead Gorgeous by Malorie Blackman (2002)

Well, I think you can guess from the cover and the title, that it's a ghost story.

There are a lot of characters in this book, and every one of them seems to have some kind of problem, even the ghost. Frankly, I don't think I've ever met such an obnoxious group of people in my life, thank goodness. No one has a pleasant word for anyone else. They spend their entire lives scowling at each other, and every time they open their mouths they draw blood:

Nova slowly chewed on her sausage as she listened to her mum and sister argue. It was the same almost every meal time.
'Raye, I didn't stand in this hot kitchen all afternoon making you dinner for the fun of it.'
'Here we go.' Raye tutted and raised her eyes heavenwards. '"I spend all day in this kitchen, and do you appreciate it? Hell, no!"'
'Don't be so cheeky.'
'Stop bossing me about then.'
'I'll stop when you start eating. Or should I get your dad to have a word with you?'
Raye savagely pronged a sausage before stuffing the whole thing into her mouth in one go. 'Satisfied?' she mumbled, her cheeks bulging.
Nova and the twins exchanged a long-suffering look. Nova shook her head as she took another bite of her sausage.
'Can't you two stop arguing for two seconds?' Jake asked.
'Yeah! You're giving us a bellyache,' Jude added.
'And you're both giving me a headache,' Nova put in her twopence worth, glaring at her mum, then at Raye in turn.
'Fine! Right!' Raye piled creamy-white mashed potato onto her fork so that the fork was no longer visible beneath the huge mound. Then she pushed the whole lot into her mouth.
'Good idea, Raye,' Mum said sarcastically. 'Choking on your food will really show me!'
Raye sat in stony silence and continued chewing her food. Her eyes shot daggers at anyone who dared to look in her direction.

However, I recommend you skip lightly over the worst of the bickering and get on with the plot, which is brilliant, intense, and completely unpredictable, once it gets going.

Raye and Nova are sisters. They used to be close, but Raye has grown up recently and dumped Nova somewhere along the way. Their parents are preoccupied running the family hotel, which is only doing moderately well. So Nova feels neglected. Perhaps that is why she is the one who can see Liam when he manifests in the hotel garden. Actually, she bumps into him:

'Why don't you look where you're going?' she demanded furiously.
'Why don't you?' the boy replied.
'Because this is my hotel,' Nova said stiffly.
'That shouldn't stop you from looking where you're going,' said the boy.

It's a wonder they manage to convey any sensible information to each other at all, they're that busy scoring points. But anyway, Nova overcomes her natural dismay at meeting a ghost and learns that he is a permanent resident in the hotel, especially the underground tunnels. What she must do is discover exactly why Liam is so distressed at the presence of one of the hotel guests, Mr Jackman.

There's more, because Liam can't help but get involved in everyone's life! I suppose that must be the main advantage of being able to hover around unseen in other people's bedrooms. And anyway, he fancies Raye, which doesn't do a lot for Nova's self-esteem.

There's a lot going on, but I can report that everyone manages to do the right thing in the end. And the story ends reasonably harmoniously. But not before I've nearly bitten my nails to the quick during the final drama in the underground tunnels.

If you can bear with the dialogue, I think you'll really enjoy this dramatic and fast-moving story.

What can I read next?

Malorie Blackman has written many books for children, all of which are enormously enjoyable. You can rely on these stories to have a strong plot, and they cover a wide variety of topics. Have a look at:

If you really enjoy a ghost story, I think you might like to look at this really spooky one by Melvin Burgess:

If you are a slightly older reader, I suspect you would really enjoy this one by Tim Bowler, even though it isn't exactly a ghost story:

You might also like to look at this one by Nicky Singer which has a haunted atmosphere:

But if you really like to read books about teenage problems, you could have a look at this one by Sharon G Flake:

Or this one by Jacqueline Wilson:

Also, the Bookchooser has found these books with a similar profile:

Dead Gorgeous features in these lists: