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Louise Simone
Charlotte's Ghosts
L. P. Simone, author
Charlotte Cross didn't believe in ghosts, until she met one whose heart was as broken as her own... The spring before 7th Grade, tragedy strikes C. C. Cross. Dad won't be coming home from Afghanistan. When her mother packs her up and moves her across the country to Manassas, Virginia, C.C. finds herself in a new neighborhood, a new school and a new life, one without her mighty, fearless, and beloved father. As C.C. struggles to build a new life, she meets a boy on the Civil War Battlefield near her home. Then he disappears right before her eyes. C.C. knows that somehow, she must uncover the truth about the disappearing boy, and why he haunts the Battlefield. …In the spring of 1861 Jeremy Turner wants nothing more than to join Lincoln's army and shoot himself some Rebels, if only Ma would sign the enlistment papers. Not until he abandons his family farm and leaves behind everything he loves, will Jeremy find his way into the bloodiest war in American history. Can these two broken hearts help one another find their way home?
Plot/Idea: 9 out of 10
Originality: 10 out of 10
Prose: 8 out of 10
Character/Execution: 9 out of 10
Overall: 9.00 out of 10


Plot/Idea: Charlotte's Ghosts, a YA historical novel, is the charming, heartbreaking tale of new kid Charlotte "C.C." Cross, who has a plethora of problems: her father was recently killed in Afghanistan, her widowed mother has dragged her across the country to a new school, and she sees dead people. Specifically, she sees Jeremy Turner, killed fighting for the Union in Manassas, Virginia, in 1862.

Prose: Aside from some grammatical and formatting errors, Simone's prose is precise and descriptive, and she does a fine job juggling Charlotte and Jeremy's POVs, jumping between Charlotte's struggles in the present and the early battles of the American Civil War. Simone also vividly captures the cost of war even beyond the loss of lives.

Originality: There are many YA novels about grieving teenagers and the Civil War, but Charlotte's Ghosts is singular: not just a book about a modern teenager and a long-dead teenager; not just about the titular heroine's struggles to deal with family tragedy; and not just a book about the early battles of the Civil War, but a successful blending of these elements that will deeply gratify perceptive readers.

Character/Execution: Simone's characters are each well articulated and developed: Charlotte is a grieving bundle of anxiety, hormones, and curiosity, struggling to deal with the abrupt changes in her life even as she wonders if she's losing her mind. Her widowed mother's suffering is also quietly impactful. For his part, the long-dead Civil War casualty Jeremy Turner, is convincingly portrayed, his regrets trapping him in the ground he died in.

Date Submitted: April 02, 2024

A cozy contemporary paranormal mystery offers an opportunity for a gentle historical perspective on war and loss in this time-crossed middle grade novel. As an Army kid, 7th grader Charlotte Cross is used to moving, but since her dad died in Afghanistan, she knows this new school in Manassas, Virginia, is more permanent. On a walk past a local Civil War battlefield, her black lab Beau runs toward a strange boy, who soon after disappears. From there, Charlotte’s Ghosts plunges into the past. In 1861, Jeremy is left alone on the farm after his father goes north to join the Union Army, but his pacifist Quaker mother won’t let Jeremy sign up to fight the rebels like he desperately wants to. While Charlotte navigates grieving by joining the cross-country team and making friends, she also finds some others willing to help her figure out how to help Jeremy’s ghost be at peace.

Charlotte’s side of this well-constructed story will be instantly relatable for readers, with themes of settling into a new place, and the sadness of losing her father touches without being overly visceral. Jeremy’s story will prove less immediately intuitive for young readers, as a Virginian father eager to fight for the North against slavery despite his wife’s religious objections is complicated, especially as slavery itself is not depicted in the story. Still, that setup illuminates the complexity of American identities, and the idea of a boy who wants to follow his own idea of manhood will resonate with adolescent readers.

In the past, the upsetting parts of the story, such as the killing of Jeremy’s beloved cow by soldiers, are also told with grace. Both Charlotte and Jeremy’s stories come to satisfying conclusions without loose ends, and the shift in Charlotte’s thinking about her dad at the end makes it clear she’s learned something from the experience.

Takeaway: Ghost mystery connecting present and past while gently exploring grief.

Comparable Titles: Claire LeGrand’s The Year of Shadows, Allison Mills’s The Ghost Collector.

Production grades
Cover: A
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A
Marketing copy: A