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GHOST SOLDIER by Elaine Marie Alphin

GHOST SOLDIER

By Elaine Marie Alphin

Age Range: 10 - 14

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 2001
ISBN: 0-8050-6158-4
Publisher: Henry Holt

The ghost of a young Confederate soldier plays therapist to an angry 21st-century teen. It’s been three years since his mother walked out on him and his father, but 13-year-old Alexander still hopes for her return—and blames his father bitterly for her departure. So when his father packs the two of them up for a weeklong vacation in North Carolina to visit an attractive widow he met at a conference, Alexander moves into high resentment gear, especially when he meets her dinosaur-loving son and equally resentful older daughter. The only thing that distracts him from his anger is the ghost he meets while touring a Civil War battlefield. The long-dead Rich’s obsession concerns his sister: did she make it to safety before General Sherman’s troops overran the family farm? Through Rich, Alexander learns a bit about history (this history dwells on the undeniable valor of the Southern troops and the brutality of their Northern opponents, but skims very lightly over the slavery issue) and a little more about family dynamics: “Your mother left for her own reasons, not because of you.” While it’s a little unclear how this dead 19th-century teenager could have such a firm grasp of soothing 21st-century bromides, it is certain that over the course of their search for evidence of Rich’s sister’s survival, Alexander learns to accept his mother’s departure and his father’s desire to move on. Alphin (Counterfeit Son, 2000, etc.) handles the moments when Alexander moves into the ghostly world with flair and atmosphere, but the outcomes of both Rich’s quest and Alexander’s inward journey are entirely predictable. A serviceable but not essential offering. (Fiction. 10-14)