Quill and Quire

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by Joanne Levy

Lilah Bloom is just your average seventh-grader: she likes shopping, groans about math tests, plays the drums, and can’t wait to finally turn 13. Her biggest problem in life is worrying about how lonely her divorced dad seems. When her mother remarries, Lilah gets to be a bridesmaid. The day is perfect until storm clouds roll in. Lilah is standing just under the canopy when lightning strikes and suddenly everything goes black.

When she wakes up, Lilah finds herself in a hospital bed with her mother and father standing by. But they’re not the only ones in the room. Lilah has barely recovered from the news that she was hit by lightning when she hears a familiar voice: Bubby Dora, her paternal grandmother. What’s so surprising about that? Bubby is a ghost.

Lilah quickly discovers that she can hear the voices of all kinds of dead people. Some, like Bubby, are people she knew, while others come to her in the hopes of connecting with loved ones they’ve left behind in the world of the living. Lilah learns to use her new talent to help those around her, including her lonely father and her very own crush, a boy named Andrew Finkel.

First-time author Joanne Levy does a great job capturing Lilah’s self-deprecating humour and persistent optimism. Dialogue cuts seamlessly between the living people in Lilah’s life and the ghosts who have started following her around. This could have been confusing, but Levy succeeds in creating high-energy scenes that are funny and engaging. The seventh-grade angst and vocabulary are spot-on, without relying too heavily on pop culture references and Internet-speak. The narrative – focused on the challenges of growing up – offers a gentle reminder that even almost-13-year-olds can use a little grandmotherly advice from time to time.