Ghost Medicine

Ghost Medicine

4.8 7
by Andrew Smith
     
 

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The summer before Troy Stotts turns seventeen, his mother dies. Communicating with his father mostly by notes, Troy spends his time with his friends: Tom Buller, brash and fearless; Gabe Benavidez, smart enough to know he'll never take over the family ranch; and Gabe's sister, Luz, who Troy has loved since they were children. They want this to be the summer of

Overview

The summer before Troy Stotts turns seventeen, his mother dies. Communicating with his father mostly by notes, Troy spends his time with his friends: Tom Buller, brash and fearless; Gabe Benavidez, smart enough to know he'll never take over the family ranch; and Gabe's sister, Luz, who Troy has loved since they were children. They want this to be the summer of "ghost medicine," when time seems to stop, and they can hide from the past and the future, and all the ghosts that come with them. Troy and his friends don't want trouble, but as the summer fills with dangerous and fateful encounters, can even the most powerful ghost medicine keep them hidden and safe?

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Smith's first novel, a deceptively simple coming-of-age story, defies expectations via its sublime imagery and its elliptical narrative structure. Troy, 16, and two childhood friends spend the summer following Troy's mother's death wrangling wild horses while drinking homemade wine and sampling chewing tobacco. Each of their brushes with danger-a rattlesnake attack, a predatory mountain lion-they commemorate with tattoos and rituals in homage to the mysterious force they call "ghost medicine." The intrepid Troy-who, in the beginning of the book, reads sections of The Idiot and Jude the Obscure while hiding out in his grandfather's mountain cabin with his horse-grapples with his mother's death through philosophical ruminations: "There might be a God [but] He is, at best, ambivalent to all of the things set in motion in this world." In the periphery is Troy's first love, Luz, for whom Troy contemplates staying forever in the idyllic landscape, rather than leaving for college. While the summer climaxes with jarring violence, the possibility of a true departure never materializes: the outside world is held at bay by the inscrutable questions unveiled in the book's conclusion. Ages 12-up. (Sept.)

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KLIATT - Claire Rosser
This first novel by Smith (a horse rancher who teaches AP classes and coaches rugby) reveals his deep understanding of young people and horses. The story begins with a foreboding prologue that makes clear this story is about the death of three boys, and Troy, the narrator saying, "…I wonder, sometimes, what might have happened if we hadn't shot Chase Rutledge." The first chapter tells of Troy's anger at his father the month his mother dies of cancer, and his taking his horse Reno up the mountain to camp out alone, introducing the place that is so important to the story. Troy's friend and neighbor Luz rides up some days later to find him and bring him home…this is the time their love for one another turns into romantic love. As the summer continues, Troy works on the ranch for Luz's father. His best friends are Luz's younger brother Gabe and the son of the foreman, Tommy. This emphasis on young men and their horses reminds me somewhat of Cormac McCarthy's All the Pretty Horses, especially when the young men encounter evil for the first time and try to understand the complications of their own guilt and innocence. But Smith doesn't have the same control over his prose that McCarthy has, and this long story would have been more powerful with some further editing. Still, the plot is gripping, and Smith succeeds with wonderful characterizations, with his descriptions of a memorable setting and way of life and the bonds of friendship and love shared by Tommy, Luz, Gabe, and Troy. Reviewer: Claire Rosser
VOYA - Matthew Weaver
Sixteen-year-old Troy Stotts leaves home with his horse Reno after the death of his mother. His father is too silent to go after him but not so Luz, the girl of Troy's dreams. She tracks him down and urges him back. Troy starts working for Luz's father and deepens his friendship with Luz's weak-willed brother, Gabey, and longtime best buddy, Tom Buller, the epitome of older brother cool, occasionally running afoul of the unsavory son of a local sheriff's deputy. The characters live in a place where injuries must either be tended immediately or risk death waiting for help, and rattlesnakes and mountain lions are lifted to mystic-level threats. There is a haunting beauty to this story in which boys become men. Looking beyond the relative novelty of a teen Western, this book is a pitch-perfect coming-of-age tale destined to be held aloft alongside other classics of young adult literature. The story flows like stark, lovely poetry shared by best friends around a mountainside campfire. A real-life Los Angeles area rancher and high school teacher, Smith takes all the trappings of stories mastered by the likes of Cormac McCarthy, Larry McMurtry, or even Harper Lee to deliver a work at once both timelessly classic and vibrantly fresh. Reviewer: Matthew Weaver
School Library Journal

Gr 8 Up

Distant from his emotionally absent father, and missing his mother, who died recently, 16-year-old Troy first finds solace on a solo camping trip and then with his friends-Tom Buller, a wild and fearless farmhand; Gabe Benavidez, the timorous and underestimated son of a wealthy Western ranch owner; and Luz Benavidez, Gabe's sister and Troy's lifetime love. That summer is a journey of loss, self-discovery, pain, triumph, and growth as the young people try to define who they are and what they're meant to do. Oftentimes they seek answers from what Troy calls Ghost Medicine, a Native American philosophy that explains the strength and signs that can be drawn from nature. While Troy senses that change is coming fast and fierce, he never imagines the deadly threat the sheriff's son imposes when childhood pranks, jealousy, and vengeance get out of control. Troy wishes to be lost, but his greatest hope is to be found, and Ghost Medicine beautifully captures that paradox in this timeless and tender coming-of-age story. Not only will it inspire readers to prod the boundaries of their own courage, but it will also remind them that life and love are precious and fleeting.-Terri Clark, Smokey Hill Library, Centennial, CO

Kirkus Reviews
To escape the ghosts lurking between him and his father after his mother's death, 16-year-old Troy Stotts takes a job working for his crush Luz's father and spends his free time with his optimistic best friend, Tommy Buller, fixing up town recluse Rose's decrepit house. When the sheriff's thuggish son tries to rape Luz, Troy and his friends engage in an escalating antagonism that leads to both death and openness. Though Smith's lyrical prose moves at a glacial pace, the slowly building narrative gathers the heart-wrenching moments together to create a fully engrossing tale. Understating the violence, Smith instead allows readers to create their own graphic images of skewered horses and gunshot wounds. Troy's attempts at invisibility contrast with other characters' desire for recognition and fatherly approval. Rose grows beyond a stock crotchety cat lady to provide moments of genuine humor and insight, very much in the mold of Terry Pratchett's Granny Weatherwax. After a slow start, Smith canters to a satisfying finish. (Fiction. 12 & up)
From the Publisher

“A pitch-perfect coming-of-age tale destined to be held aloft alongside other classics of young adult literature. The story flows like stark, lovely poetry shared by best friends around a mountainside campfire.” —Voice of Youth Advocates

“Smith's first novel, a deceptively simple coming-of-age story, defies expectations via its sublime imagery and its elliptical narrative structure.” —Publishers Weekly, Starred Review

“Troy wishes to be lost, but his greatest hope is to be found, and Ghost Medicine beautifully captures that paradox in this timeless and tender coming-of-age story. Not only will it inspire readers to prod the boundaries of their own courage, but it will also remind them that life and love are precious and fleeting.” —School Library Journal

“The slowly building narrative gathers the heart-wrenching moments together to create a fully engrossing tale. . . . Troy's attempts at invisibility contrast with other characters' desire for recognition and fatherly approval. . . . Smith canters to a satisfying finish.” —Kirkus Reviews

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780312375577
Publisher:
Feiwel & Friends
Publication date:
09/02/2008
Pages:
368
Product dimensions:
5.90(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.10(d)
Lexile:
830L (what's this?)
Age Range:
13 - 18 Years

Related Subjects

Read an Excerpt

I can see myself lying in the dirt, on my back, on a warm, starry night, with my feet up on those rocks, ringing a swirling and noisy fire, listening, laughing, seeing the sparks that corkscrew, spinning above me into the black like dying stars, fading, disappearing, becoming something else; my hat back on my head so I can just see my friends from the corners of my eyes. I can feel the warmth of the dirt in my hair, smell the smoke, hear the horses’ hooves as they move restlessly in the humid summer dark. And I can close my eyes and see the conjuring, electrified, and vaporous shapes of the granite mountains, those two fingers; parting the wind, luring the thunder in that time of year.

Meet the Author

Andrew Smith is the author of The Marbury Lens, named an American Library Association Best Book for Young Adults, and In the Path of Falling Objects. In addition to writing, he teaches high school advanced placement classes and coaches rugby. He lives in Southern California with his family, in a rural location in the mountains.

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Ghost Medicine 4.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I found this book to be shockingly easy to relate to, despite the settings and circumstances being different than my own. Andrew Smith is to be commended for his attention to detail and beautiful descriptions both of characters and the settings. Often times I found myself so engulfed in the story that I had completely stopped reading for the sole purpose of taking in the landscape the author had created in my mind. The story, however, is not without its twists and turns. I was so caught up in reading that I brought the book to work with me and read it instead of doing my job, and I nearly got caught a few times, but it was well worth it. I even stayed up until 4am because I couldn¿t wait to see what happened next. It kept me guessing until the very last page, and when it was over, I was disappointed. Not because it was a bad book, but because I wanted there to be more of the characters whom I had grown to love. I would recommend this book to anyone, including you.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Truly a great story. Good for all ages. With a gripping plot line and fantastic story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I promise, it's not cheesy like the description makes it sound. It's very well done.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
After I finished this book, I was shocked by how great it was. I literally felt like I hadn't read a better book. I tried recommending it to all of my friends, but for some reason most of them couldn't get into it. But I think that you should give it a try. It is a very relatable book and will make you laugh, cry, and think about life in a new perspective. Hope you like it!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have never read a better book in my entire life!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago