Monday, April 9, 2018

Ghosts of Greenglass House by Kate Milford, 2017

Warning: this is the sequel to Greenglass House. Do not read ahead unless you're okay with major spoilers from the first book!

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Welcome back to the irresistible world of Greenglass House where thirteen-year-old Milo is, once again, spending the winter holidays stuck in a house full of strange guests who are not what they seem. There are fresh clues to uncover as friends old and new join in his search for a mysterious map and a famous smuggler’s lost haul.
(464 pages)

When I reviewed Greenglass House about three years ago,  I wrote that it was a cozy and nice read that I enjoyed, even when some of the plot twists were a tad creepy. Now that I'm here reviewing the second one, and have had quite a bit of time to process the first one, I want to start out by saying that the fact that Meddie is a ghost added a whole layer of ambiance and character to the story that really enhanced it as a whole.

Ghosts of Greenglass House exploits this a bit with its title, I think, since while there are ghosts in Ghosts in Greenglass House that is just one storyline among many. throughout the book. I don't mind too much, though, because it does match the quirky style of the book.

Anyway, I really enjoyed reading this book. There's just something really cozy about reading a 450-page thick book set in a rambling old mansion trapped full of secretive characters, you know? It's largely a character-driven book, rather than being plot-focused like most books I read, and I enjoyed coming along for the ride rather than just rushing toward a climax. The ambiance in these books is awesome.

I don't think it's quite as good as its prequel, though, so I should touch on the negatives. First, it took me quite a bit longer to care about the new guests this time around. I came to be very interested in a couple of them, but I got many of the rest mixed up in my head even through to the end, which kind of muddled the conclusion. There may have been just a few too many characters in the story this time around.

Also, I wrote in my review of Greenglass House that I really appreciated reading about Milo's experience struggling with his identity after being adopted from China by white parents as a baby. Ghosts of Greenglass House continues to deal with his adoption, but it does it in a very different way: basically, when it comes up several times throughout the book, it focuses on Milo's attempts to learn more about Chinese culture, his hurt feelings due to some missteps by his schoolteacher, and his annoyance that people always make assumptions or ask rude questions when they first meet him and see him with his parents. I do appreciate that these are all valid topics to cover, and as a white person I am the first to admit that this is not really my area, but I have to say that Milford's treatment of Milo's experience felt extremely preachy and kind of nit-picky. She basically just uses him to teach the audience how really small comments can still hurt people, which is a good point, but I also think that Milo's reaction to some minor comments seem way out of proportion to their intent.

I think my biggest gripe is with the way his parents handle things: rather than really taking him by the hand and helping him, they offer to talk about it once or twice and then completely abandon him with something that has obviously been really bothering him. I think they're meant to be good parents because they recognize that they are inexperienced in racial issues since they're white, but really: they are his parents. If something is hurting him, it's their job to either fix the situation or help him cope with it and move past it.

Anyway, I really enjoyed reading Ghosts of Greenglass House as a nice, lazy, relaxing read. It's a tad more convoluted than the first one, a tad less enjoyable, and in parts does feel like a rehash of its prequel, but Ghosts of Greenglass House was such a lovely read that it can afford to be a bit diminished and still be a very pleasurable read. If you read an enjoyed Greenglass House, then I recommend you give Ghosts of Greenglass House a try!

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