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Friday, January 11, 2013

Marly's Ghost, written by David Levithan and illustrated by Brian Selznick. Speak, Penguin. 2006. $8.99 ages 14 and up

"Her absence was all that mattered to me now. just as her presence had been all that mattered to me then. The people around me measured their days in hours or class periods or meals. I used to measure the days in glimpses of her face, touches from her hand, words sent back and forth through the air, all the things I'd tell her. I had never before experienced a love so elemental. And I never would again."

I found it very interesting to read David Levithan's story about Ben and his reaction to the loss of his girlfriend Marly. He fashions it as a retelling of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol, with some differences.

First, it happens on Valentine's Day. Ben has not been able to come to grips with Marly's death. As he mourns her absence he feels alone in missing her. And, he is bitter. He wants everyone to feel the way he is feeling, and sets about making Valentine's Day as miserable for them as it is for him:

"I'm sick and tired of all this useless energy spent on love. All the drama. All the expectation. All these couples pretending to fit together because that's what they think they're supposed to do. I am sick of celebrating that. I am sick of glorifying the vulnerability and codependency of dimwitted lonely people who spend thirty dollars on a dozen roses and think that means something more than a waste of money."

 His friends wish he would lighten up and  join them as he used to do. Then, Marly's ghost visits him to warn him about where his life is headed. As happened in the original story, Marly then sends the ghosts of love past, present and future to help him realize what his life has been and what it will become if he doesn't forge a different path. There is so much for him to value in his friends and their support.

I like the characters. I admire David Levithan's ability to stick so closely to Dickens classic tale. Anyone who likes the works of Mr. Dickens is sure to find this an enjoyable read. The addition of Brian Selznick's pen and ink illustrations give it a realism that hearkens back to the original drawings.
This book is sure to find an audience. And, Valentine's Day is soon upon us!

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