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Just two weeks after his 15-year-old brother Jon-o's heroic death while trying to save a drowning child, Wally (12) begins to see and have conversations with his ghost. Now that Jon-o is gone, Wally is afraid of being overprotected by his widowed mother. While yearning for the advice Jon-o used to give, Wally also tries to become more like him. Despite his mother's worried objections, he uses Jon-o's skateboard and gets involved in a dangerous competition; meanwhile, it becomes clear that Jon-o was no paragon: he was sometimes a daredevil, and was given to ""borrowing"" without leave. Though Wally's dawning realization that he must now redefine himself on his own terms makes psychological sense, the characters here are drawn so broadly that they lack plausibility--especially the notably insensitive aunt who has come to ""help"" by ordering everyone else to shape up and skip the grief. The ghost makes a catchy title, but otherwise he's little more than a clumsy manifestation of memory plus conscience. Also, minor details here are irritatingly awry: if Jon-o was such a great gardener, why didn't he plant the family plot before dying in mid June? Accessible, but simplistic and carelessly written.

Pub Date: April 23rd, 1990
ISBN: 0395525926
Page count: 160pp
Publisher: Clarion/Houghton Mifflin