Nothing But Ghosts by Beth Kephart
(Harper Teen, Hardcover, 2009)
Katie used to have a perfect life. Then her mother died and ever since then Katie can't seem to fix the whole in her life and in her heart. Her father restores paintings but he can't restore her mother and so the two drift alone in a giant house, unable to talk about the past and unable to look forward. Katie's summer job, however, proves to be just the push that she needs to begin her life again. She spends her summer days working the gardens for an eccentric old lady, a lady that she has never seen and who is so completely shrouded in mystery that Katie can't help but dig into the past for some answers.
I immediately liked Katie. She's got a sassy voice, tinged with a bit of vulnerability. The combination was impossible to resist. As with all of Beth Kephart's books, the writing is lyrical and each sentence is a present in itself. Katie's house and the gardens where she works come alive and I could easily slip into her shoes, even though so much of her life is different from my own. Katie learns that we are all haunted by ghosts but that it doesn't have to define us. Nothing But Ghosts isn't necessarily a book with a lesson, yet it does leave us with the satisfaction of having learned from Katie.
The mystery and the unexpected friendships in this book were what I enjoyed the most. Katie's quest to discover more about Miss Martine is exciting and full of twists and surprises, and includes some help from the oh-so-chic librarian, Ms. McDermott, and Danny, the cute boy who works with her at the gardens. I loved the ending as well. It does what all books should do, provide hope for the character's future while not telling us every single thing that will happen in that future. Katie is a living character in my mind, someone that I might meet on the street or in a library one day. And there are so many other details, so many wonderful layers to this book—the glass bottles, the bird at the window, the paintings—I couldn't possibly write all of them down in this review. Just trust me and get your hands on a copy as soon as you can.