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Marly's Ghost Paperback – October 18, 2007

4.1 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 7-10–In this modified version of Dickens's A Christmas Carol, Scrooge has been replaced by Ben, a high school student whose girlfriend has passed away, leaving him extremely cynical about love as Valentine's Day approaches. The creatively mutated story follows the basic action of the original as the teen is visited by Marly's ghost, then three spirits: The Ghost of Love Past, The Ghost of Love Present, and…well, you know. While this seems like a promisingly inventive way to address bereavement, nothing quite clicks in this remix of the classic. Prior knowledge of the original story seems to diminish rather than enhance the power of this adaptation. There are downright awkward moments, too. The character Tiny Tim has morphed into a pair of gay freshmen, Tiny and Tim, for example, and the young lovers' presence in the story seems gratuitous and synthetic. Selznick's pen-and-ink drawings, while very well done, don't quite seem to fit in either, reflecting the overall problem the story has establishing and sustaining a uniform tone and mood.–Jeffrey Hastings, Highlander Way Middle School, Howell, MI
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Gr. 7-10. "Love is humbug," rages teenager Ben in this sober, contemporary remix of Dickens'A Christmas Carol. Ben's beloved girlfriend, Marly, has died of cancer, and, as his town and high school celebrate Valentine's Day, he tries to cope with his raging grief. Levithan's heartbreaking narrative, illustrated with occasional small, crosshatched drawings, relates how Marly's ghost comes to Ben with three other spirits that take Ben first to the past he cannot forget (his first sight of Marly, their first kiss, their passionate embrace), then to his present sorrow (when, like Scrooge, he lashes out at everyone), and finally to the possible future (when he commits suicide--unless he can stop himself). The future vignette is the only point where the message gets heavy. The magical realism is powerful throughout, especially in the love story, and Levithan (who wrote Boy Meets Boy, 2003) also touches on gay relationships when dealing with the annual Valentine love fest enjoyed by the town and Ben's high school. A solid story to mark the holiday. Hazel Rochman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 12 and up
  • Grade Level: 7 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 820 (What's this?)
  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Speak; Reprint edition (October 18, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 014240912X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0142409121
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.5 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #204,117 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

I find it downright baffling to write about myself, which is why I'm considering it somewhat cruel and usual to have to write this brief bio and to update it now and then. The factual approach (born '72, Brown '94, first book '03) seems a bit dry, while the emotional landscape (happy childhood, happy adolescence - give or take a few poems - and happy adulthood so far) sounds horribly well-adjusted. The only addiction I've ever had was a brief spiral into the arms of diet Dr Pepper, unless you count My So-Called Life episodes as a drug. I am evangelical in my musical beliefs.

Luckily, I am much happier talking about my books than I am talking about myself. My first novel, Boy Meets Boy, started as a story I wrote for my friends for Valentine's Day (something I've done for the past twenty-two years and counting) and turned itself into a teen novel. When not writing during spare hours on weekends, I am editorial director at Scholastic, and the founding editor of the PUSH imprint, which is devoted to finding new voices and new authors in teen literature. (Check it out at www.thisispush.com.)

With Boy Meets Boy, I basically set out to write the book that I dreamed of getting as an editor - a book about gay teens that doesn't conform to the old norms about gay teens in literature (i.e. it has to be about a gay uncle, or a teen who gets beaten up for being gay, or about outcasts who come out and find they're still outcasts, albeit outcasts with their outcastedness in common.) I'm often asked if the book is a work of fantasy or a work of reality, and the answer is right down the middle - it's about where we're going, and where we should be. Of Boy Meets Boy, the reviewer at Booklist wrote: "In its blithe acceptance and celebration of human differences, this is arguably the most important gay novel since Annie on My Mind and seems to represent a revolution in the publishing of gay-themed books for adolescents" - which pretty much blew me away when I read it. Viva la revolution!

My second book, The Realm of Possibility, is about twenty teens who all go to the same high school, and how their lives interconnect. Each part is written in its own style, and I'm hoping they all add up to a novel that conveys all the randomness and intersection that goes on in our lives - two things I'm incredibly fascinated by. The book is written in both poetry and linebroken prose - something I never dreamed I would write. But I was inspired by writers such as Virginia Euwer Wolff, Billy Merrell, Eireann Corrigan, and Marie Howe to try it. It is often said that reading is the greatest inspiration to writing, and this is definitely the case for me.

My third novel, Are We There Yet?, is about two brothers who are tricked into taking a trip to Italy together. The natural questions to ask when faced with this summary are: (a) Do you have a brother? (Yes.); (b) Is he the brother in the book? (He's neither brother in the book.); (c) Have you been to Italy? (Yes.); (d) Which city was your favorite? (Venice.); (e) Is this based on your trip there? (The sights are, but the story isn't; the whole time I was there, I took notes in my notebook, not knowing exactly what they'd be for.)

Marly's Ghost, my fourth novel, is a Valentine's Day retelling of A Christmas Carol, illustrated by my friend Brian Selznick. To write it, I went through A Christmas Carol and remixed it - took phrases and themes and created a new version, centering around a boy named Ben whose girlfriend, Marly, has just died. When he looks like he's giving up on life, Marly reappears in ghost form - and sends some other ghosts to get him to embrace life again. It was a hard book to write - it's about both love and grief, two very difficult things to capture truthfully. But I genuinely don't see any reason to write a book if it doesn't feel like a challenge.

My next book came unexpectedly. My friend Rachel Cohn proposed that we write a back-and-forth novel, with her writing from a girl's perspective and me writing from a boy's. The result is Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist, a kick- butt love story that we wrote over a summer without really planning it out. It just happened, and it was one of the best writing experiences I ever had. It has even been bought for the movies - stay tuned on that front.

A different kind of collaboration is The Full Spectrum: A New Generation of Writing About Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning, and Other Identities, an anthology I co-edited with my best friend Billy Merrell. It contains true stories from LGBTQ writers under the age of 23, and the Lambda Award for Best LBGTQ Children's/Teen Book.

Other anthologies I've edited or co-edited include: 21 Proms, a collection of prom stories by YA authors, co-edited with Daniel Ehrenhaft; Friends, an anthology of middle-grade friendship stories, co-edited with Ann M. Martin; and three PUSH anthologies of the best young writers and artists in America: You Are Here, This Is Now (2002), Where We Are, What We See (2005), We Are Quiet, We Are Loud (2008). Another PUSH anthology is This is PUSH, featuring new work from all of the authors who've written for PUSH.

My sixth novel, Wide Awake, starts with the election of the first gay Jewish president, and is about two boyfriends who must go to Kansas when the election results are threatened. In many ways, it's a "sequel in spirit" to Boy Meets Boy, since it's about many of the same things - love, friendship tolerance, and taking a stand for what you believe in. It was written right after the 2004 election, and published right before the 2006 election, which made me hope that a gay Jewish president was a closer reality than I might have thought. (No, I have no intention to run. But if you read the book now, it's sometimes how eerie how it echoes the 2008 race.)

My second collaboration with Rachel Cohn, Naomi and Ely's No Kiss List, was inspired by a phrase my best friend Nick and I came up with after he moved to New York City. It's about a straight girl and a gay boy who've been best friends forever . . . but have to deal with a lot of things that have gone unsaid after the boy (Ely) kisses the girl's (Naomi's) boyfriend. This time, Rachel and I decided to rotate the point of view between a number of characters, not just the titular two. The result was harder to write, but just as fun to create.

How They Met, and Other Stories, was published in 2008, which happened to be the twentieth anniversary of my Valentine Story tradition. It contains a few stories I wrote in high school and college, and more that I wrote more recently, some for anthologies, and some just for myself and my friends.

The first series I ever worked on (as a writer) is Likely Story, which I wrote with two of my friends, Chris Van Etten and David Ozanich, under the pen name David Van Etten. Chris and David both have experience working on soap operas, and had the idea for a TV show about the daughter of a soap opera diva who ends up running a soap opera of her own. I know nothing about writing a TV show, so I said, "Hey, that would be fun to write as a series of books, too!" And, voila!, Likely Story was born. It was a blast to write, and the main character, Mallory, is one of my favorites yet.

In 2009, Knopf published Love is the Higher Law. It's the story of three teenagers in New York on 9/11, and how their lives intertwine in the days and weeks and months that follow. I know this sounds grim, but it's really the story of things coming together even as it feels like the world is falling apart -- because that's how it felt to be in New York at that time, both tragic because of the events that happened and magical in the way that everyone became their better selves in the face of it. It's a love story between friends, a love story for a city, and a love story for love itself, and the way it can get us through things, however daunting or shocking they may be. Or at least that's what I aimed for. I hope you'll read it and let me know if I got there.

Will Grayson, Will Grayson started, in many ways, back in college, when I kept being mistaken for another student named David Leventhal. He was a beautiful dancer; I was not. So people would continually come up to me and say things like, "I saw you on stage last night - who would have thought you could be so graceful?" And I'd have to say, "Um...that wasn't me." Our paths finally crossed at the end of school, and we became best friends when we both moved to New York City - him to dance, me to edit and write. Fast forward ten years or so - I had the idea to write a book about two boys with the same name, and called my friend John Green about it. He said yes on the spot, and it took us five years from first conversation to publication day. The result? A novel about identity, love, and what it's like to make a musical out of your own life. You know, the universal themes.

My third novel with Rachel Cohn, called Dash and Lily's Book of Dares, came out in October 2010. It's a romantic cat-and-mouse chase through New York, with a special shoutout to The Strand, a bookstore I am particularly fond of.

The Lover's Dictionary, my first novel about post-teenagers, was published by FSG at the start of 2011. It's the story of a relationship told entirely in dictionary form. Once again, this started out as a Valentine's Day story, and grew from there. I'd often been asked if it would be different to write about adults than it is to write about teens, and I learned that, no, there isn't any difference. A story is a story. And when I write, I'm not thinking of audience -- just of being true to the story. My hope is Lover's Dictionary is as honest as I can be,

Upcoming? A different kind of YA collaboration for me -- a novel I wrote based on photographs my friend Jonathan Farmer gave me. I never knew which photo would come next, and he never knew what I was writing. The result is a very strange, somewhat dark, portrait of a boy on the verge of a complete breakdown. It's called Every You, Every Me, and it will be published in fall 2011.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Sixteen-year-old Ebeneezer "Ben" Scrooge, was always a die-hard Valentine's Day fan. Bringing his girlfriend, Marly, flowers and chocolates. But all that changes when Marly dies from a brain tumor. After three-years together, Ben doesn't feel that he can go on, and is angered by the fact that everyone around him is living their life as if nothing tragic has happened. What angers him even more is Valentine's Day. Suddenly, Ben wonders how a stupid, commercialized holiday can mean so much to people. So he boycotts it. But Marly's spirit obviously isn't going to allow Ben to ruin this holiday, or go on living angry. For on the eve of Valentine's Day, Marly's ghost arrives, bringing along several other ghosts that will haunt him within a 24-hour period - the Ghost of Love Past, the Ghost of Love Present, and the Ghost of Love Future - that will show Ben that the way he's been acting is doing nothing more than dishonoring Marly's memory, and making him...a scrooge.

Charles Dickens' A CHRISTMAS CAROL has been one of my favorite books since I was very young. So when I heard about David Levithan's MARLY'S GHOST, I didn't think that it could compare. I was wrong. Levithan's MARLY'S GHOST is a wonderful "remix" of the story A CHRISTMAS CAROL, and easily brings Dickens' ideas into a modern day scene that will leave readers enchanted. The storyline is sad - as is A CHRISTMAS CAROL - and the descriptions of Marly's sickness bring to mind scenes from Nicholas Sparks' A WALK TO REMEMBER, yet end on a happy note - as did Sparks' effort. Levithan has created characters that embody updated versions of all of Dickens' previous characters, even including a modern day Tiny Tim - that is actually two gay freshman named Tiny and Tim.
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Format: Paperback
I'm not really that big a fan of Charles Dickens, but I am a huge fan of David Levithan and Brian Selznick. I was expecting a modernization of A Christmas Carol with a twist and the amazing dialogue and true-to-life characters that I expect from Levinthan. What I didn't expect was the cheesy nearly word-for-word retelling of a book I never really liked in the first place.

It should really come as no surprise that Marly is dead, the victim of a cancer that claims the lives of far too many people at far too young an age. In the beginning, the book started off strong with the heart-felt longing Ben has for his lost girlfriend and the pain it has caused not only for Ben but also for those who love him the most.

Yet, as the story continues with the appearance of Marly and the three other ghosts--the Spirits of Love Past, Present and Future--the story goes from heartbreaking to overkill. Instead of letting a natural flow come from a great beginning, Levithan forces his characters to fit into the neat little mold that Dickens had created more than a hundred years before.

While the end looked like it was about to take a turn for the better and have a more modern application of the timeless moral the original story outlined, the characters were again restricted by the near verbatim retelling. (I'm afraid if I say more on this, I will give away the ending.)

I know this review sounds harsh, but the book really wasn't that bad of a read. The story really does teach a good lesson about learning from the past while still living for the future, and that love really can pull us through some pretty awful things.
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Format: Hardcover
"I repeated it now- I love you. I love you. Please. I love you. Then it came- that one small gasp. We waited for the next one, but there was no next one. You expect death to bring some new form of punctuation, but there it is: one small gasp. Period."

Ben is a 16 year old man grieving the loss of his first love, Marly, a woman who died from cancer. He was with her until the end, and those moments leading up to her death still haunt him, so much so that he feel that he can't go on with her months after her death. His loss wells to such an intensity it causes him to lash out to his family, friends, and even strangers with heated animosity. On the day before Valentine's day he even tells off a couple by the names of Tiny and Tim (the school's only gay couple) proclaiming that love is pointless and other such nonsense. It is obvious that his depression has taken a toll on him.

That evening in a moment of sheer loneliness he is visited by the ghost of Marly, who tells him his ties on him are weighing her down in the afterlife and that he has to move on. He admits he wants to die, so she tells him that he will be visited by three ghosts over the next few nights... if the story sounds familiar that's because it is a retelling of Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol"... only set in contemporary times and with a Valentine's day theme instead.

It is true that Charles Dickens wrote "A Christmas Carol", but to me it feels as if it were meant purely as a study for David Levithan to use to pen this book. Now, I freely admit I have never been the biggest fan of Dickens' style of writing but I have read "A Christmas Carol" (in class, I wouldn't have finished it had I not been forced to). So I do know the story.
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