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Nothing but Ghosts

Nothing but Ghosts

5.0 7
by Beth Kephart

Ever since her mother passed away, Katie's been alone in her too-big house with her genius dad, who restores old paintings for a living. Katie takes a summer job at a garden estate, where, with the help of two brothers and a glamorous librarian, she soon becomes embroiled in decoding a mystery. There are secrets and shadows at the heart of Nothing but


Ever since her mother passed away, Katie's been alone in her too-big house with her genius dad, who restores old paintings for a living. Katie takes a summer job at a garden estate, where, with the help of two brothers and a glamorous librarian, she soon becomes embroiled in decoding a mystery. There are secrets and shadows at the heart of Nothing but Ghosts: symbols hidden in a time-darkened painting, and surprises behind a locked bedroom door. But most of all, this is a love story—the story of a girl who learns about love while also learning to live with her own ghosts.

This is a heartfelt, lyrical tale from the National Book Award-nominated author of Undercover and House of Dance.

Editorial Reviews

The Bulletin for the Center for Children's Books
Elegantly polished yet tender, with the book deftly illuminating complicated emotions and relationships
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
Elegantly polished yet tender, with the book deftly illuminating complicated emotions and relationships
Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books (starred review)
Elegantly polished yet tender, with the book deftly illuminating complicated emotions and relationships
Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books
Elegantly polished yet tender, with the book deftly illuminating complicated emotions and relationships
Beth Kephart’s dazzling new novel is wise and wonderful, certain to be a revelation for young adult readers.
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books (starred review)
Elegantly polished yet tender, with the book deftly illuminating complicated emotions and relationships
Publishers Weekly
Coping with loss and uncovering secrets are staples of YA fiction, but Kephart (House of Dance) skillfully uses nuanced characters and resonant imagery to make the familiar feel new and magical. Sixteen-year-old Katie D'Amore and her father live in an old “heirloom” house, one that's far too large following the recent death of Katie's mother. Her father restores paintings—bringing torn, stained and begrimed canvases back to life—and Katie has taken a summer job as a gardener for the town recluse, Miss Martine, which offers another kind of resurrection. But neither can leave grief behind. Orders to excavate an unlikely spot for a new gazebo lead Katie to investigate the mystery behind Miss Martine's sudden withdrawal from the world. Her search parallels her father's current restoration project, which also gives tantalizing glimpses into an old tragedy and the still-open wounds it left behind. Kephart's evocative writing and gentle resolution offer healing and hope as her characters come to terms with their losses. As Katie says, “Things disappear and vanish... and after that all you can do is keep the idea of them bright inside yourself.” Ages 12–up. (July)
VOYA - Joyce Doyle
Katie tries to deal with her mother's death by isolating herself from her friends and spending her summer working as a gardener for the reclusive Miss Martine. When she arrives at work early, Katie catches the caretaker Old Olson looking for something in the dirt excavated for a new gazebo, and she decides to uncover the mystery and discover Miss Martine's secret. Boxes of "local lore" provided with the help of the town librarian, an old painting brought to her father for restoration, and an insistent finch at her window mix with a superhero neighbor child and a little romance to help Katie discover Miss Martine, her mother, and herself. Kephart weaves a variety of elements into the story with poetic grace. There are some beautiful phrases and descriptions scattered throughout the book; however, there are almost too many facets to the story line, many of which are conveniently coincidental, leaving the reader confused if it is a mystery, a romance, or a character study. Meanwhile there is not quite enough of any one element to strengthen the story appeal—readers will wish there was more to the mystery or the romance. True to life, no single piece of the story is tied up into a pretty bow at the end, but instead some questions are left unanswered. Although there is no edgy content, this story will most likely only appeal to more sophisticated readers. Reviewer: Joyce Doyle
Children's Literature - Melissa Joy Adams
Katie has never felt more alone. Ever since her mother died, her house has seemed too old and too big without her mother's vivacious personality to fill it up. After taking a gardening job at a local estate, Katie discovers a mystery surrounding the owner of the estate, Miss Martine, and whatever happened years ago to cause her to become a recluse. When the caretaker directs the gardeners to dig a deep excavation hole near the river, Katie, with the help of her coworker Danny, turns to the local library in hopes of uncovering the mystery. As she unearths more clues, memories of the last summer with her mother surface which help Katie begin processing her grief over her mother's death. While Kephart's novel is beautifully written and contains a touching storyline, readers looking for a quicker pace and more overt tension and suspense will find the novel somewhat lacking. Reviewer: Melissa Joy Adams
School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up–When her mother dies of cancer, 16-year-old Katie finds it painful to continue the patterns of her old life, so she makes the unexpected choice of taking a summer job in the gardens of the nearby estate belonging to reclusive Miss Martine. There she works under the caretaker with the other part-timers and stumbles upon a two-pronged mystery: Why are they digging so deeply near the river, and how does that relate to whatever sent the debutante Miss Martine out of society more than 50 years earlier? Katie’s father, a brilliant art-restoration expert, contributes to the search for answers as he cleans an elaborate painting that he believes Miss Martine’s father, a millionaire industrialist, created near the time of her seclusion. Research into some donated boxes of local lore at the library and assistance from the librarian and an intriguing boy who also works at the estate aid in her investigation. Meanwhile, Katie grieves: memories of a family spur-of-the-moment trip to Barcelona the summer before remind her of how her mother made an event out of everything and made her feel loved. Somehow it’s easier for the teen to deal with Miss Martine’s ghosts than with the aching absence of her mother. Nice writing and characterization can’t quite compensate for a lack of suspense, a romance that never really gets off the ground, and a story that doesn’t draw one in.–Suzanne Gordon, Peachtree Ridge High School, Suwanee, GA
Kirkus Reviews
A long-buried mystery weaves its way through this delicately layered portrait of a grief-stricken daughter and father that meditates on the nature of loss. Listless and withdrawn following the death of her mother, Katie takes a summer job as a landscaper on the estate of the enigmatic, reclusive Miss Martine. Meanwhile, Katie's father, a conservator, is commissioned to restore an unusual painting, which may be linked to Miss Martine's decades-old disappearance from public life. Kephart's latest is characterized by the same achingly lovely prose that distinguished her earlier novels for teens, Undercover (2007) and House of Dance (2008). However, the characters are at times too idealized and adult-as when 17-year-old Katie thinks to herself that "Mom used to say that being responsible has its own rewards, and the more I live the more I figure that she was right about that." Teens with a taste for literary fiction will appreciate the deft wordsmithing and be touched by the unabashed tenderness of the narrative, but it is unlikely to have wide appeal. (Fiction. 12 & up)

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 7.20(h) x 1.20(d)
Age Range:
12 - 17 Years

Meet the Author

Beth Kephart was nominated for a National Book Award for her memoir A Slant of Sun. Her first novel for teens, Undercover, received four starred reviews and was named a Best Book by Kirkus Reviews, School Library Journal, and Amazon.com. In 2005 Beth was awarded the Speakeasy Poetry Prize. She has also written Into the Tangle of Friendship: A Memoir of the Things That Matter; Still Love in Strange Places: A Memoir; Ghosts in the Garden: Reflections on Endings, Beginnings, and the Unearthing of Self; Flow: The Life and Times of Philadelphia's Schuylkill River; Zenobia: The Curious Book of Business; and House of Dance. She lives in Pennsylvania with her family.

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Nothing but Ghosts 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
marielamba More than 1 year ago
This was an amazing book, and beyond lovely. From the size and layout of the text to the luminescent quality of the words, it felt special and like a privilege to read. Kephart's word choices are brilliant and all the while I was eager to return to this book, sit in a patch of sunshine and get lost. Highly recommended to any book lover.
SleepDreamWrite More than 1 year ago
This was a really good book. The writing, setting and characters are interesting. It's like about one thing but its really about something else. The end was good. Recommend this and the author's other book, Undercover.
Nobody93 More than 1 year ago
I highly reccommend this book! It is not scary. 13+. From Katie trying to find out about Ms. Martine, it leads her to her mom too. Then her dad's weird painting, the librarian, Sammy Mack, the neighbor, and the fashionista librarian, OMG, you have to read it! Then the most unexpected thing, is Katie falls in love, wow, so amazing that I read 144 pages, and 13 chapters in one day to finish it, I couldn't bare to miss the ending. This ending is the best ending to a novel I've ever read. Beth Kephart wrote the best book of all time, I certainly enjoyed it! Reccommended- One other book I reccommend is Airhead By: Meg Cabot
Dana_W More than 1 year ago
Katie is a young woman who has lost her mother. She is trying to find herself so she takes a job in a local garden estate. There she finds a mystery that will help her discover the meaning of loss, regret and how our choices can effect us. This book was a haunting read-well worth the time.
Lauren817 More than 1 year ago
I've actually never read anything by Beth Kephart before and after reading Nothing But Ghosts I totally feel bad about not doing so. Nothing But Ghosts is a novel filled with the aftermath of loosing someone close to you ( the pain and regret) and how to get by while still keeping parts of that person in memory. I personally thought Beth dealt with the loss of Katie's mother excellently. Since, while you could feel Katie's sadness in Beth's writing it never felt like too much or too little. Also, I really enjoyed the mystery aspect of the plot. It was fun to try to figure out why Miss Martine, Katie's employer and her small town's mysterious ex socialite, went into hiding. I was always trying to figure out the reasons why and they ended up being pretty close to what actually happened. The characters in this novel where also amazing and they just jumped off the page from the start. As mentioned briefly above, I really enjoyed reading about Katie. Many girls and boys out there can relate to her feelings of loss, me being one of them. Plus, I loved how she was such a strong character; one that could overcome loss and still be okay. The additional characters were also cute and had their own unique personalities. One being Katie's dad. It was interesting to read about his job restoring paintings and to see how he dealt with the loss of his wife. Sammy Macker, was yet another creative add to the story, as was Ms. McDermott and Danny, who was such a sweet guy! Beth Kephart's writing also won me over big time. I loved how it had this lyrical feeling and hooked you from the first chapter and didn't let you go till the ending. I really can't wait to read her future and past novels, since she has such a great talent. Overall, I truly adored Nothing But Ghosts and suggest that you should definitely give it a try; it's just a beautiful novel. Grade: A+
Faithfulgirl4 More than 1 year ago
What do a dig site, a painting, 7 boxes of "local lore", and the 'disappearance' of a mother all have in common? This story of course!! Nothing But Ghosts is the story of Katie who is a tender-hearted 16 year old suffering from the loss of her mom to cancer. It hurts her so to say that she has died so, like many teenagers do, she finds a way of coping and begins to talk of her mom 'disappearing'. Katie is a great kid and she and her dad have some issues to work out in dealing with the loss of Katie's mom. Katie decides to work at the manor of the mysterious Socialite Ms. Martine while her dad wraps himself in restoring an old painting. Little do they know the clues and stories that will intertwine life together in peculiar, yet mysterious, ways. Throughout this book, different stages of grief are represented in a tender and caring way. There is also a little romance, a huge mystery, and a lot of reflection. I love how Katie spends time talking to her mom still and sharing those 'mother-daughter' moments with her in her absence. This book is so beautifully written and I highly recommend it. It will put a smile on your face, might bring a tear to your eye, and it will warm your heart when you reflect on lost loves in your life. I thought often of my grandmother as I read this book and even though she's been gone many, many years, I found some healing in this book. I only hope you will enjoy it as much as I have.
TeensReadToo More than 1 year ago
Katie misses her mother, who recently died of cancer. She tries to find things around the house that help her feel close to her mother's spirit. As summer begins, Katie knows she will need something to keep her busy while her father, an art/painting restorer, works obsessively in his studio. The answer comes in the form of a landscaping job at the Everlast estate. Working with the full-time groundskeeper and caretakers of the estate, Katie spends her daytime hours with her hands dirty and her brow sweaty. The work is tiring but strangely satisfying. As she works, she begins to wonder about the strange stories told of Miss Martine Everlast and her reclusive lifestyle. The woman has been dead for some time, but the mansion is still cared for by a man known as Old Olson and a couple who have been employed there for years. When Katie and the others are assigned to excavate a hole in the garden, it seems some of the long-buried secrets of Miss Martine might finally be uncovered. The detective work that results helps give Katie yet another purpose during that long summer. Her frequent trips to the library to sift through boxes of what the librarian calls "local lore" occupies her scattered thoughts and gives her conversational material to distract her and her father as they deal with their grief. Understanding another family's secrets might make understanding her own family easier. Beth Kephart, an accomplished author, takes readers into the lives of people who have suffered loss and are struggling to deal with the changes it brings to their lives. It is evident through Kephart's story that no two people grieve in the same way, yet dealing with loss is a universal issue. Using the backdrop of the local mystery adds a suspenseful twist to Katie's search to hold onto the memory of her mother.