The Girl and The Ghost (ARC)
Author: Hanna Alkaf
Released: August 4th, 2020
Genre: Middle Grade, Fiction
Format: e-ARC (Edelweiss)
Characters: Suraya (Sooz), Jing, Pink, Mama, Pawang, …
I am a dark spirit, the ghost announced grandly. I am your inheritance, your grandmother’s legacy. I am yours to command.
Suraya is delighted when her witch grandmother gifts her a pelesit. She names her ghostly companion Pink, and the two quickly become inseparable.
But Suraya doesn’t know that pelesits have a dark side—and when Pink’s shadows threaten to consume them both, they must find enough light to survive . . . before they are both lost to the darkness.
Fans of Holly Black’s Doll Bones and Tahereh Mafi’s Furthermore series will love this ghostly middle grade debut that explores jealousy, love, and the extraordinary power of friendship.
As you know, I always try my best to support local (Malaysian) authors by reading and reviewing their works. Hence, Hanna Alkaf is not an exception. I read 2 of her previous works, the well-known The Weight of Our Sky which was a delight! and Taste in the short stories compilation Once Upon An Eid. I love how her stories reflect Malaysia, our hometown so much. She tells great stories about Malaysia and the people in Malaysia. So, I was very excited that HarperCollins International reached out and offer an e-ARC of this book, without a second thought I picked up this book!
In the e-ARC format that I read, I only had less than 200 pages worth of this book. The first half of the book consists of my absolute favourite moments in the story. One thing Hanna always highlight in her stories is about food and how the Muslims and the Chinese would talk about Halal food. I simply adore these little moments when the Chinese are very concern whether the food they serve to the Muslims is Halal or not. This makes me adore the friendship between Jing and Suraya, they are very innocent, resourceful and genuine towards each other.
In this book, the author has introduced the Pelesit as the main subject of the story. Taken from Wikipedia, Pelesit is a type of familiar spirit in Malay folklore. It is generally a cricket, or occasionally a grasshopper. The term literally means “buzzer” from the root word lesit meaning to buzz or whizz, as an insect does. Pelesit, saka or spirits that are passed down from one generation to another is really common in Malay horror movies or dramas or even in our local households. We always talk about it so I’m very excited to see this appears in a book and knowing the fact that the whole world now is going to know the existence of such thing in our culture is pretty cool(?).
Besides, I think there were moments in this story, the author was highlighting on mental health. For instance, Suraya was so scared to enter her mother’s room and she was hearing her mother’s warning repeatedly.
However, the second half of the book for me was a bit flat. It was supposed to be a very exciting adventure for Jing and Suraya to help Pink, the pelesit. I think middle graders would enjoy the second half of the book a lot but I was not feeling it as much sadly (or fortunately?). I saw some reviews saying that this book is eerie, haunting and really spooky but I wasn’t feeling much of those spookiness, maybe just couple of times but mostly this book is sort of fluffy and warm. At times, it’s humorous too, even at the graveyard, it was funny really with the spirits being sarcastic to one another.
Nevertheless, this book ended with a bang! That plot twist towards the end was very much unexpected. The author definitely hides all the clues pretty well and did an amazing job with the ending which brought tears rolling down my cheeks.
I love the writing style. The author is so good at making me feel happy and the next thing I know I was feeling sad. The changes of the mood constantly happens in the book BUT worries not, the transition is very smooth and well done. The plot is also arranged neatly right from the start till the end.
Overall, I enjoyed reading The Girl and The Ghost and would recommend you to read this cute Middle Grade book as well for it’s heartwarming, well represented, well written and executed.