Title: City of Ghosts
(Cassidy Blake #1)
Author: Victoria Schwab
Genre: MG Paranormal
Length: 285 pages
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Publish Date: August 28, 2018
Near Death/Drowning, Ghosts
So I read this book for the Coffee Break Book Club, and I wanted to make sure that I read it before the end of the month so I could participate in the Book of the Month discussions. I’m one of the mods for this group to lead the monthly discussions, so I have to do my job well, right? Well, here I am being proactive sort of! This was my first Schwab book, and I’m glad I started with one of her Middle Grade novels so I can have an idea of how she writes. It may not be the exact same for her YA or Adult books, but at least I have an idea.
Cass almost died a little more than a year ago when she had a near drowning experience, although maybe it wasn’t as “near” as she thought. From that moment, when she was somehow pulled out of the river by a mysterious boy, she’s been able to feel the pull of the supernatural around her. Hey, at least she isn’t too scared about it.
Jacob is the boy that pulled Cass out of the river more than a year ago, but he’s also a ghost. He was a ghost when he did so, and now he’s Cass’ best friend, making sure that she doesn’t get stuck on the other side, and keeping her company almost all the time. His death remains a mystery, although it must have been recent because of his mannerisms and the clothes he died in.
Lara is someone we meet in Edinburgh, and someone who is actually like Cass. Meaning she is able to travel to the other side and teaches Cass that there is an actual purpose for them being able to do so. We don’t get to see much of her though, and it’s a shame because her character could have been explored way more. Hopefully she makes more of an appearance somehow in the rest of the series.
So not only can Cass go past the “Veil”, which is the curtain that separates the living world from the dead, but her parents are paranormal fanatics and have written many books about different ghost stories and legends throughout history. Well, all of their work is coming to a head because they are now working on a show that takes them all around the world, going to the most haunted cities on Earth and teaching their audience about those stories.
Their first stop is Edinburgh, Scotland, and Cassidy finds out that this city really is haunted with all kinds of ghosts. Not only that, but one of them may actually be after her soul.
I know that this is a Middle Grade book so I don’t anticipate there being romance at all in any of these books – I may be wrong though, so let me know – but I personally liked the friendship between Cass and Jacob. There was never any romantic tension or whatever that happens during puberty or when an author tries to ship the two main characters for the sake of a romance. That didn’t happen here, and I appreciated that.
I liked that there was a bit of history sprinkled in to this story, not only when the Blake parents were filming their show, but even when Cass was exploring the city on her own. It was really cool to hear about something that I personally never looked into before, and not feeling like I was forced to hear something boring. It was never boring in that aspect.
I know I was a little more than a bit irritated with how Cass would constantly comment on the different terminology that the UK used. For example: fish and chips, torches, etc. Like… just because other people around the world have a different word that they use for something that you’re familiar with (fries, flashlight), doesn’t mean that they are wrong or crazy. It kind of felt ignorant to me that she was always making it seem like the Scottish were insane for having these terms. I don’t know.
I didn’t like how Lara was introduced to us as someone that didn’t like Cass in the beginning. They could have actually been friends, and Lara could have been a mentor for her, but I guess Schwab wanted to show the difference between a newbie and a more experienced traveler into the Veil, and it just made Lara come off like she thought Cass was an idiot. Also, since Lara had a more serious personality about what she does, it just made her come off as unapproachable. She really wasn’t. She just was someone that took her duty very seriously because of what bad things could happen if she didn’t. Nothing is wrong with that.
I wonder if I should even keep this section because I don’t always take notes of the quotes that I like. At least when it’s a physical or an audiobook, I don’t. I kind of stopped doing that, unfortunately, and it makes it harder to find the parts that I wanted to mention. Hmm, maybe I should take better notes or something.
Apparently nothing was too memorable for me, so oops.
Is it possible to be “sort of” obsessed with something? I feel like the Blake parents were “sort of” obsessed with the paranormal and ghosts and hauntings, but that her dad didn’t take it very seriously sometimes. I know he was more into the history side and the mom was more into the story telling side, but Cass literally told both of them that her best friend was a ghost and it seemed like both of them thought she was just making it up. I mean, wouldn’t they at least give her the benefit of the doubt with all the research they have done and what they learned throughout the years? Her dad even patronized her for talking about Jacob and would pretend that he was more of an imaginary friend as if she were a little girl. That bothered me about them the most. It almost seemed like they didn’t really believe in what they spent their lives researching.
This was definitely an OK book for me. Nothing too problematic about it for me, like nothing that really stood out and made me stop reading it or anything. I thought the pace was fine. The setting was fine, felt really paranormal when Cass and Jacob would go across the Veil. I kind of wish there was more exploring in Edinburgh without the constant threat, but I get it. The plot won in this case.
It is a series so maybe we will see Cass and Jacob grow more and learn more about why Jacob is able to be in the physical world – even though he can’t make his presence known to anyone but Cass and Lara, what else Cass is supposed to do with her powers, and if maybe there is even an end goal to everything she’s doing.