THE GHOSTS OF HEAVEN by Marcus Sedgwick tells a quartet of stories spanning many millennium brought together through the symbolism found in spirals.
Sophisticated readers will enjoy the challenge of a book that pushes the traditional boundaries of YA fiction. The author begins with a discussion of the physics of the universe and informs the reader that the stories can be read in any order.
Written in verse, the first episode focuses on a prehistoric girl who discovers how symbols can be used for more than magic. This story moves quickly and is likely to engage teen readers. The second story takes place in England during the witch hunts. Unfortunately, the plot isn’t particularly unique but the symbolism fits well. An insane asylum is the setting of the third story. Although this thriller is engaging, it explores the inner demons of an insane asylum doctor rather than a young adult character. The final episode focuses on an astronaut traveling through space and time. Adult readers will immediately think of 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Unlike most books for young adults, the protagonists aren’t all teenagers. Instead, they represent a wide range of characters that may or may not appeal to the youth audience.
Like Sedgwick’s award-winning Midwinterblood (2013), the interconnected thematic elements are designed for a sophisticated YA audience. Fans of Sedgwick will enjoy identifying and analyzing the reoccurring spiral themes woven throughout the novel. Unfortunately, the connections are less compelling than the reincarnation theme found in his earlier work.
The short story approach, use of symbolism, and interesting literary elements make The Ghosts of Heaven a great choice for a high school book club or class discussion. Its mix of historical fiction, science fiction, and literary fiction provide something for everyone in a discussion group. The book geeks will go wild trying to figure out the mathematical and historical title of the conclusion.
Sedgwick’s genre-bending package will be a hit with young adults looking for a thought-provoking reading experience, but keep in mind that it’s not for everyone.
Edelweiss and NetGalley ARC used for review