A ghost plagues a native Mainer as she struggles to unearth the tragic secrets of the spirit’s demise.
White teen Rilla Brae mourns the recent loss of her father and continues his work as a lobsterman off the coast of Maine. She’s been accepted to college, but with no one to take care of her grandmother—the last remaining member of her family—it’s tough to leave home. One day, after setting her pots, she spots a young African-American girl on nearby Malaga Island—she’s singing. But the girl vanishes, and Rilla can’t tell if she was a hallucination. She wasn’t—the girl is a ghost, and she haunts Rilla, scratching messages on her windowsill. Meanwhile, Rilla becomes close to Sam, a white college student conducting research on Malaga. As the ghost intensifies her demands, Rilla and Sam piece together the tragedy that befell her community. Residents of Rilla’s town forcibly evicted the islanders, committing some to institutions. As Rilla digs deeper, she learns about more horrors the townspeople committed in the name of racism—and the strong ties this history has to her own family. Based on true events, the story Rilla unearths is more haunting than any ghost (although the widespread use in Maine schools of Gary D. Schmidt’s 2003 middle-grade novel about the expulsion of Malaga’s residents, Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy, makes it hard to believe Rilla wouldn’t have been familiar with it already). An evocative backdrop of life as a lobsterman grounds the supernatural elements, and Rilla’s steeliness shines—she’s the kind of captain readers will eagerly follow.
History and mystery meld beautifully in this ghost story with depth. (author’s note, sources) (Paranormal suspense. 14-18)