Review: Marly’s Ghost by David Levithan
When high school student Ben’s girlfriend Marly dies four months before Valentine’s Day he decides that he is done with love forever. Marly, however, has other ideas. As the holiday approaches her spirit visits Ben and tells him that he will be visited by three ghosts; those of Love Past, Present and Future.
The question is, will that be enough to stop Ben giving up on the idea of love once and for all in this Valentine’s Day “remix” (as the author describes it) of Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol?
Before I launch into this book review, I should probably tell you that I am a huge David Levithan fan and I’ve read quite a few of his books. While I really enjoyed this one too, I didn’t love it as much as some of the others.
Parts of the story were beautiful in the most heartbreaking of ways. Levithan’s descriptions of loss, and all the feelings that come with it, were very raw and very real. There were times when I could only read a couple of pages at a time because I needed to take a break from all the emotions it stirred up inside me. I know that might put some people off reading a book, but I absolutely love it when a writer can make me feel so deeply.
In the end, the character I cared the most about wasn’t Ben himself, but his best friend Fred, who never once gives up on him despite the fact that some of the others in their group pretty much have done already. This story isn’t just about romantic love, but love between friends too.
Quite a few elements of this novel mirror A Christmas Carol (which I’ve also read) very closely, and while I was expecting this and would have been quite disappointed if it didn’t, I felt at times that it got in the way of the storytelling for me. My brain was too busy pointing out all the subtle references, such as one other couple being called Tiny and Tim, to fully be able to enjoy the book.
I also had trouble with some of the dialogue too. The spirits all speak in language that I would say is quite Dickensian, which was fine, but Ben also did the same thing when when he was talking to them. That annoyed me quite a bit because I just couldn’t imagine a modern-day American teen doing that and it stuck out like a sore thumb whenever I read it.
However, the ending, in true David Levithan style, is utterly magical. It reminded me of why I love this author, and A Christmas Carol, so much.
The book also contains several illustrations by Brian Selznick which were a nice touch. I can’t remember the last time I read a fiction book that had pictures in. They made me smile a lot.
You should definitely think about picking Marly’s Ghost up if you’re a fan of YA fiction that makes you feel all the emotions but also warms your heart.