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Ordinary Ghosts (Push Fiction) Mass Market Paperback – August 1, 2008

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 9 Up—For years, the all-male student body at Caramoor Academy has held an underground tradition of bestowing a secret master key to the campus onto one "worthy" (read: mischievous) student each year. Emil Simon would never have gotten the key in the usual way, but when his older brother took off after their mother's death, he left the key behind. With his emotionally distant father away on business, Emil uses his after-hours access to the school grounds to create a private place for himself. Eventually, he forges a connection with the art teacher's daughter, who is also making clandestine use of the Caramoor property. Corrigan's plotting is occasionally sluggish, but Emil proves to be a fascinating central character. His flippant, defiant manner and casual attitude toward drugs, sex, and school conceal a deeply introspective person, lost in a conventional academic setting and alternately missing and resenting his more popular brother. Those who can handle Emil's frank narrative and raw language will find his almost brutal self-awareness and growing confidence touching.—Christi Voth, Parker Library, CO
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

*Starred Review* Sixteen-year-old Emil lives alone with his militaristic father after his mother dies and his charismatic older brother, Ethan, disappears. While searching Ethan's room for drugs and clues to his whereabouts, Emil discovers that Ethan had the master key to their elite boys' school. According to school tradition, one senior holds the key, pulls off a tremendous prank, and anonymously passes the key to another student, who is expected to carry on the tradition the next year. Determined to fulfill Ethan's role, Emil sneaks into his school at night, looking for inspiration for a key-worthy prank. Instead, he finds a girl, Jade, working in the art studio. He and Jade begin talking, tiptoe around each other with their secrets, and finally develop a relationship. When Emil comes to shocking revelations about his mother's death and Ethan's sudden departure, Jade helps Emil cope with the earth-shattering news. Following two books in verse, Corrigan's first prose novel shines with language that authentically echoes teen speech patterns and slang (including some swearing). The tone and complex male protagonist will remind readers of Markus Zusack's Printz Honor Book, I Am the Messenger (2005). This similarly memorable novel will capture older teens with its realistic, fully developed characters who come of age on the page. Booth, Heather
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
  • Series: Push Fiction
  • Mass Market Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Push; Reprint edition (August 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0439832446
  • ISBN-13: 978-0439832441
  • Product Dimensions: 7.1 x 5.3 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,956,910 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By TeensReadToo on May 19, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Emil's life has been turned upside down in the last year. His mother has died of cancer and his brother, who he has always looked up to, has disappeared without a trace. Emil and his father don't communicate about anything important and rarely see each other due to his father's work schedule. The only friend he has is Soma, a rule-bending, line-crossing boy who is in the same grade as Emil.

Nothing exciting happens to Emil. He is average in every way. His brother, Ethan, was the bright, shining star with all the friends, good grades, and a way with the ladies. Emil just lives in Ethan's shadow. He attends Caramoor Academy, a private school with a hefty tuition. Since everything has happened in his family, Emil's grades have started to slip and his father is riding him harder than ever to make the grade; especially since he is paying so much for him to go to school at Caramoor.

Emil does have the key though -- the key to notoriety, the key to exploration, the key to discovery. One day before Ethan left home, Emil was digging around in his bedroom and found an actual key. When he asked Ethan what the key unlocked he received a surprising answer: the key was a master key to the entire Caramoor Academy campus. Every door in every building was available to the person who held the key. Emil asked if he could have it and unbelievably, Ethan said yes. Normally the key was passed from one student to another each year. No one except the key holder was supposed to know who had it. The goal of the year was to pull off a monumental prank.

Emil's chance at greatness comes when his father has to go out of town for a long business trip and he has four days and nights home alone. He decides to use his time exploring Caramoor Academy.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By B. Pearl on May 15, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I should preface this review by saying that I am not a teenager (I'm 30), nor do I know much about the teen lit world. I read this book on a recommendation from a friend and found myself having trouble putting it down. Corrigan writes convincingly from the first-person perspective of a teenage boy, an impressive feat for a female author. Everything rings true, from the teenage vernacular to Emil's inner monologues regarding his brother, his relationship with his father, and his anxiety in dealing with the opposite sex.

The plot is dramatic but doesn't feel contrived, and the resolution feels real, almost to the point where if a studio was to make a movie out of the book, you could be sure they'd screw up the ending by changing it and making it more dramatic. The story is paced perfectly - alternating smoothly between advancing the plot and developing its protagonist.

The most impressive aspect of this book is that it doesn't insult its audience. I have no intentions of reading a bunch of teen lit books now but I'm sure its a genre populated mostly by crap. This book treats teens as young adults - still young and immature, but not the idiots that a lot of adults take teens to be. I think the story and the charcters will ring true for teenagers who are lucky enough to hear about this book.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By SKendall on May 16, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Tight and inventive descriptions, realistic emotional flaws and a plot that keeps you engaged- that's what you can expect after reading the first few pages of Ordinary Ghosts. Eireann Corrigan takes a simple concept (high school kid with a key to unlock every door on campus) and turns it into an incredible vehicle to confront different themes. No matter how old you are- a junior in high school like the protagonist Emil, or an adult happening to come across this title in the YA section- you relate to Corrigan's characters and side with Emil right off the bat. I was unable to put this book down after I started reading. I should sue Corrigan for keeping me from my job, friends and dinner table. Corrigan takes themes like sibling idolization, death, love and finding oneself and makes them her own. Don't believe me? Buy Ordinary Ghosts, feel the cold air against your face as you travel through an abandoned campus with Emil and start re-living the raw emotions of youth.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By R. Edelman on March 11, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Quite simply, this is a really fun read. Novels set in high schools, told from the voice of a struggling adolescent discovering facets of him/herself and learning a lot about the world during the ride, never go out of style. There's always something in a book like Ordinary Ghosts that any reader in their teen years or beyond can relate to and get a laugh out of. Corrigan's latest comes highly recommended from a picky and choosy literature snob, and that says a lot!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By dechen bailey on April 11, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Corrigan's novel is a rare treat in young adult (YA) literature. The themes and content are certainly targeted at young adults, but the writing is honest, deep, and complex. Most young adult literature underestimates the intelligence and comprehension of teens. Ultimately the work of most YA literature authors suffers because they leave out complex emotional and philosophical concepts because they lack faith in their audience (young people). Corrigan's book deftly avoids this pitfall which results in a book that is moving not only to young adults, but to us "old" adults, too.

The characters are multi-dimensional and rich. Each possesses his or her own well crafted psychology. Rather than hide or gloss over them, Corrigan has been careful to highlight her character's flaws. Still, all the characters are highly likeable and leave the reader deeply invested in their outcomes. It has been years since I've read a book that I couldn't put down. I became so interested in the story that I carried the book around with me sneaking peeks at it whenever I had a spare second, even if it meant I could only read a sentence or two at a time. I'm hoping she writes a sequel because I want to know more about each character.

The story centers around Emil, a prep school student with a broken family. His mother died shortly before the story begins, his older brother and idol, Ethan, took off without saying goodbye, and his father has emotionally checked out. Emil finds a master key to his school and begins spending nights sneaking into all the places in the school he isn't supposed to go. While Emil sets out to explore the mystery of the school's haunted past, he discovers he isn't the only person trespassing the school's hallways in the night.
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