Ghost Squad by Claribel A. Ortega [Review + Buddy Read Discussion]

Ghost Squad by Claribel A. Ortega [Review + Buddy Read Discussion]

Title: Ghost Squad
Author: Claribel A. Ortega
Genre: MG Fantasy/Paranormal
Format: Hardcover
Length: 256 pages
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Release Date: April 7, 2020
Setting: St. Augustine, Florida

Ghosts, Persecution for Witchcraft, Scary Moments, Death of a Loved One, Abandonment

Dominican (#OwnVoices), Black

So as you all know, I am trying to catch up with the reviews that I should have written since May – and it’s July so… yeah – and of course since there have been so many books since then, my memory may not be as good as it would have been immediately after reading it.

But then I think about it, and is my memory even good right after either? Hmmmmmm.

Yeah, I’m not gonna answer that. You’ll just have to see for yourself.

This was one of the first MG books that I’ve read in a while, and honestly I totally forgot how much MG books could talk about really heavy things in a way that makes younger readers understand it. And this isn’t even a dig at younger readers or anything like that. But there’s a way that MG novels bring a kind of different nuance to heavier topics. To me, it feels like it allows a younger audience to see these topics in a way that makes them think about what they would do if they were in that situation, and just helps to have an open discussion without it feeling so taboo.

I mention this in the beginning because one of the topics that Ortega touches on in this novel is the fact that Lucely’s father could end up losing both his business and their house. It’s such an adult problem that I know I never thought about when I was younger because my mom never wanted me to have to worry about things that I couldn’t control. I feel like I was very blessed and privileged in that aspect because even though there were times where we were having financial troubles, it was never something that I as a child or adolescent ever felt. It wasn’t enough for me to think about whether I needed to find a job to help pay the bills, or stop any of my extra curricular activities to save money. My mom really blessed me with that kind of peace of mind, and I know that isn’t the case for everyone. So seeing Lucely overhear a conversation between her dad and some banker dude (I forget his name) and the possibility of them losing their house is mentioned, I couldn’t even imagine how I would have felt as a child hearing that.

So even though that was something that was in Lucely’s mind the entire time this novel was taking place, Ortega did it in a way that didn’t make Lucely feel like she was “too young” to be thinking about adult worries, but also gave a younger girl’s perspective on what she felt like she needed to do to help her father get through this. And I don’t know if this makes sense but to me, that was so important to portray in the right way because it does happen, and it is a legitimate concern for some children. Especially since this is also considered a fantasy/paranormal book because of the family ghosts and the magic, it can show kids that there are real life issues that can happen in a fantastical world, and maybe working on one problem can help solve the other problem. It may not be perfect, but maybe it can happen.

That was a really long thought process and it wasn’t even really what the book was about per se, but I guess it was something that I needed to get out, so there we go.

Now that that is off my chest. I can get on to some of my other thoughts on the novel.

Even though I didn’t love this book, it doesn’t mean that I didn’t like it. Maybe it was the pacing of the chapters that threw me off a bit, or maybe it was some of the dialogue. I don’t really know, and unless I reread it right now, I won’t be able to truly pinpoint it but I do think it’s a combination of the two. There were some points that I did enjoy, like whenever Luce would talk with her cousins and they would give her advice or just make her feel like the younger cousin that she is, but then there were some conversations that to me just felt like they abruptly ended with no resolution.

I think it’s funny that I need some sort of resolution in my novels when I can’t even find resolution in my own life, but whatever.

But I did enjoy the storyline. I like that the concept of the fireflies was explained a little bit more towards the middle of the book. I like that even though Luce and Syd were trying to have their adventures by themselves, Babette still got involved to make sure that they didn’t hurt themselves with magic that they didn’t understand. Even though they tried to hide it in the beginning, I was so glad that they had adult supervision. Isn’t that a weird thing to like?? I just didn’t want these girls to be completely alone when they were facing some heavy duty enemies. So yay for Babette being the parental figure in this case. At least when it came to their late night tasks.

And yeah. I think this was my first time seeing a Dominican protagonist in a MG novel, and it was so cool to see it. I loved the Spanish dialogue sprinkled here and there, and how it really felt like someone that was fluent in Spanglish. It reminded me of when my grandma starts speaking in both Chamorro and English and my mom understands her but I can’t. Boo for not being able to speak or understand Chamorro, but that’s my fault.

So there were just things that reminded me of some of my family dynamics and what I remember growing up, and I think that’s what made this book special for me. I look forward to reading more from Ortega, and I definitely hope that she writes more #OwnVoices novels.

I usually never combine a review post and a buddy read discussion post but I figured I’d do it this time since this is long overdue. Thank you so much to Sammie @ The Bookwyrm’s Den for buddy reading this book with me, and for having this discussion with me! Be sure to check out her post for my answers to her questions, because I have totally different questions on my post. We are complicated like that. I mean overachievers?

Lucely’s family and ancestors live on in the form of fireflies that sometimes take their human form. If you had the chance to see a family member that passed on, who would you wish to see?

Sammie: Awww man, choosing one is tough, since I’d want to see both my aunt and my grandmother. If I could just choose one, though, I’d go with my aunt, because she’s been dead the longest. She died when I was 18, so we never really had the chance to connect as adults. You know, the unfiltered, mother-to-mother, woman-to-woman thing. Besides, she could always just pass a message on to my grandmother, so I’m sure it’d be fiiiine.

Leelynn: I always talk about missing my grandfather. It would have to be him. I wish that he was here to see all of the things that I’ve been doing with my life, and I just hope that he’s proud of me. I know that I didn’t graduate at the top of my high school class like I wanted, and I know that I didn’t get my Bachelor’s degree yet – working on it though – but I hope that he would still be proud of me. I miss him so much.

Babette makes the girls “Ghost Squad” jackets before going on a ghost hunt. Do you have a group uniform with your friends? If you don’t, what would you wear if you did?

Sammie: Ha, no. Not even when I was in elementary school. The closest I ever got was when my two siblings and I all got matching Goosebumps jean jackets for Christmas, and we took a picture together wearing them. At Christmas. Then never again. I’d never want a group uniform, because I tend to hang out with creative people, and we creative people tend to be particular about dressing more as individuals. Or maybe that’s just me. Totally could be just me. xD I wouldn’t want to wear what everyone else is wearing, though. Uniforms suck.

Leelynn: No. The only thing that was a uniform with a group of people was our soccer jerseys for each team that I played growing up. I don’t think I really had a close group of friends that would dress alike really. Plus growing up I felt like I was too fat to wear anything that my skinny friends would wear so there’s no way that I would have dressed like them. And no I can’t do uniforms. Because I’m a lazy bum and would want to wear comfy pants all the time.

Lucely worries about her father losing the house after the man from the bank visits their house. As a child what kind of worries did you have in your life?

Sammie: Uhhhh … I don’t even remember. Like … not getting home in time to watch Pokemon? xD We were poor, but it was never something I worried about because it was just A Thing and I never really noticed.

Leelynn: Not getting straight A’s. Because that was one of the things that my mom and my grandpa stressed on me, and I would do it too for the most part. But I remember crying so hard if I didn’t get an A. If I even got a B, I was so disappointed in myself and I would cry to my mom and feel like a failure so clearly I was too hard on myself. I think that translated into me not wanting to try anything because I didn’t want to fail, and that may still happen as an adult. So I’m actually shocked when I end up trying something new every once in a while because that was the scariest thing for me.

Which family member was your favorite and why?

Sammie: I liked Babette! She seemed like she’d be a really cool grandmother. She was spunky and strong and capable and had 10,000 cats, which is clearly where I’m headed. I dig it.

Leelynn: See this is why I hate not remembering names. It was the cousin that went with Luce and Syd the most whenever they would go to the cemetery. She wasn’t the boxer, but I loved her too. Ugh I forget her name. Marisol? Ugh I suck. I hope you know what I mean.

Syd may have some magical abilities that were passed on from her grandmother. What kind of powers do you think she would show in the future?

Sammie: The ability to horde 10,000 cats? Does that count? I assume she’ll have the same powers as her grandmother, because I assume she’ll learn magic from her. But who knows? Maybe Syd becomes even stronger than her grandmother and has both magic AND technology and becomes an unstoppable ghost hunting force.

Leelynn: Hopefully powers that can help her take on some real enemies in the future. Maybe something like the power to repel evil spirits and send them to find peace. I don’t know what I would name that power, but I think that would be a good one. I hope Syd has powers in the future because I will be totally disappointed if she doesn’t. But that’s just me.

As a child, were there any older TV shows and movies that you enjoyed, like the Goonies? What were they?

Sammie: Does M*A*S*H count? I guess that was older when I was younger, but there were reruns on TV all the time, and my babysitter liked watching it. I remember it was always on when I got home in elementary school. I had a definite crush on Hawkeye. And I say had to disguise the fact that I totally still do because how could you not?!

Leelynn: I would watch The Golden Girls with my mom when I was growing up and I loved that show. Actually I would watch The Golden Girls, and then Designing Women right after. I liked both of those shows because my mom liked those shows. I think I also watched Charmed too when I was growing up, but I didn’t have the chance to watch it from the very beginning until much later. Thank you, Netflix!

Why do you think Simon (Lucely’s dad) couldn’t see the fireflies in their human form?

Sammie: Probably because adults are old and boring and lame and at some point forget that magic exists, so they lose it. That’s what I’m going with.

Leelynn: I feel like because he didn’t allow himself to think about fantastical things like seeing his family members. He was too stressed about making sure they had a home to live in, and that his tour business was able to make money for them. Since he had all that real world stress in his life, it prevented him from being able to free his mind to see things that aren’t on the surface. Which is unfortunate because there were times where I felt like he would have benefited from speaking to some of the older family members and just talking to them to help him realize that things were going to be okay.

Okay how did I even come up with the mental capacity to write the review AND answer my own questions? That never happens.

And now I’m super late in going to bed so I can wake up for work but what else is new.

Are there any more #OwnVoices reviews for Ghost Squad that you know about? Let me know which ones I should check out so I can read their thoughts!

10 thoughts on “Ghost Squad by Claribel A. Ortega [Review + Buddy Read Discussion]

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