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Summary: Troy Stotts, an unusually skinny boy with tattered sneakers, has been trying to mend his wounds from the night his mother passed away. He recuperates by spending time with his best friends, Gabey and Tommy, riding in the open field on the back of his horse, Reno. At the same time, he tries to avoid Chase, the sheriff’s son and all-around bully. One night, as the boys were sitting around a campfire, and Troy explains that ghost medicine can keep the friends connected in spirit no matter what happens to their bodies. Around the same time, Chase has been following them, planning his revenge. Life once again changes for Troy, but he knows their friendship will always be connected by the power of the ghost medicine. This is a coming-of-age story that recounts the summer of three friends. This is a high interest/low readability YA book.
Type of Reading: bedtime story, family reading, anytime reading, independent reading, reluctant reader, read aloud book
Recommended Age: read together: 9 and up; read yourself: 8 and up
Young Reader Reaction: Ghost Medicine is written from Troy's point of view. As teenagers we can connect with him, and we understand his need for hope. Some of the content and language do not suit young children, but mature readers (10+) should be able to handle the common references to tobacco and alcohol. The story itself lacks the expected qualities of complicated twists and the anticipated romance, but that is what makes the novel so different and special. Its mood is very calm, even with the occasional violence. The author describes every scene with great detail and dialogue. There were a few chapters where those details slow down the pace and may cause the reader to drop his or her attention. But you should keep reading. As the story progresses, the characters evolve into complex and understandable people. This novel will make the reader wish for something like the ghost medicine. It helped Troy and his friends stay invisible and invincible against time, even for the briefest moment.
Adult Reader Reaction: Review pending.
Pros: This is a captivating story that offers a wonderful alternative to the usual action-driven fare presented to teens.
Borrow or Buy: Buy. Troy and his friends are characters you'll want to visit with more than once.
Educational Themes: The story is driven less by the events than the characters themselves. This is a book that lends itself to discussions about choices, opportunities, grief, and spiritualism, among others. This is full of potential for small-group and classroom discussions.
Notes: Flesch Kincaid reading level 2.1
Also available as an audio book
Literary Categories: Fiction - young adult, friendship, growing up, bullies
Date(s) Reviewed: February 2009
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