Ordinary Ghosts

( 6 )


Emil's brother isn't dead. Just gone. It's his mom who's dead, and his dad who's checked out completely. Emil's alone. Not in a teary-eyed, starving-orphan way. Just alone. As in: nobody to talk to, nothing to do.

Then he finds the key. Not a metaphorical the solution to loneliness was within me all along! key. No, a real key. A key that opens every single door in the elite prep school that Emil's forced to attend. Suddenly, Emil doesn't mind ...

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Ordinary Ghosts

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Emil's brother isn't dead. Just gone. It's his mom who's dead, and his dad who's checked out completely. Emil's alone. Not in a teary-eyed, starving-orphan way. Just alone. As in: nobody to talk to, nothing to do.

Then he finds the key. Not a metaphorical the solution to loneliness was within me all along! key. No, a real key. A key that opens every single door in the elite prep school that Emil's forced to attend. Suddenly, Emil doesn't mind so much the he's a nonentities are much harder to pin down.

Soon, he's sneaking into the school at night to explore -- and falling for a girl who sneaks in for reasons of her own. The keeper of the key is supposed to be legendary but Emil will settle for barely coherent. He's spent a whole of his life dealing with disappearances. Now he has to see what it takes to make things stay.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Corrigan's (Splintering) gritty novel examines one teen's difficulty dealing with death. Things have not been easy lately for 16-year-old Emil Simon. His terminally ill mother killed herself a few months ago, he's been living in the shadow of his older brother, Ethan, and his father is distant. "It's not like my dad stands as this stunning source of emotional support. I mean, it's a struggle for us to make conversation over dinner most nights." Additionally, Ethan left home soon after their mother's death, his only goodbye a postcard with the word "Later" written on it. Before departing, Ethan gave Emil a master key to the Caramoor Academy, the prestigious prep school Emil attends. Each year, the key, which opens every door in the academy, is passed to a different student. During one of his midnight excursions exploring the school, Emil meets 18-year-old Jade, his art teacher's daughter, and awkwardly pursues her. When Emil learns that Ethan left home because he assisted in his mother's suicide, he becomes determined to find his brother. Corrigan's story can seem to drag a bit as Emil reminisces about childhood events and meditates on the bonds he had with his mother and older brother. However, as teens get a glimpse into this lonely boy, they should readily empathize with Emil's romantic awkwardness, familial strains and his gawky endeavors to make sense of his life. Ages 12-up. (Apr.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
VOYA - Suzi Steffen
All young adult literature fans have read their share of books about lonely prep-school boys whose mothers died of cancer and whose dads are emotionally distant-or as Emil Simon describes himself, "You're sixteen, with a dead mom, brother gone, and a hard-ass dad who's not exactly capable of comforting you." Emil's summary does not include the fact that through a stroke of luck, he possesses the master key to campus buildings, which theoretically will make his life better. Emil has a quirky best friend, Soma, who is somewhat like Hassan in John Green's An Abundance of Katherines (Dutton, 2006/VOYA October 2006), and then there is the wily, sexy, older Jade, the eighteen-year-old daughter of Emil's art teacher. Emil's search to make sense of his brother Ethan's disappearance and his painful discoveries of secrets that his brother and father have kept about his mother's death parallel his nigh-on futile quest for some way to use the master key to his advantage. Part of the charm of this poignant book lies in Emil's thoughtful but complete dorkiness. He is no boy-genius like Green's character Colin but a kind, normal boy with a screwed-up family. His fumbling attempts at adulthood and his process of learning how to woo Jade without messing everything up-and without telling too much or too little of the truth-cause a twist of recognition for adults and will make sense to teens trying to make their way to life in the adult world.
Children's Literature - Alison King
Emil Simon is having a tough year. He's learning to deal with the fact that the people who love you don't always know how to be there for you. He's also learning that the people whom you love can be absent even while standing in the same room. After his mother dies, Emil's brother Ethan disappears with only a "Later" written on a postcard. His father is not saying much at all to anyone, least of all Emil. Then, Emil discovers a key that was originally bequeathed to his Ethan. Ethan had told him that the key opens every door to the private prep school he attends. The holder of the key has to earn the right retrospectively by performing a spectacular stunt at the school before passing it on to another student anonymously. For Emil, possession of the key is a chance to do something with his life, a chance to become something other than the cool and charismatic Ethan's nerd baby brother. He starts attending school solo after hours and meets the enigmatic and beautiful Jade, who has her own troubles she needs to sort out. This story is tender without being sentimental. How Corrigan came to such a fierce and accurate understanding of the young male psyche I do not know, but she tells a good story that is completely believable.
School Library Journal

Gr 9 Up
For years, the all-male student body at Caramoor Academy has held an underground tradition of bestowing a secret master key to the campus onto one "worthy" (read: mischievous) student each year. Emil Simon would never have gotten the key in the usual way, but when his older brother took off after their mother's death, he left the key behind. With his emotionally distant father away on business, Emil uses his after-hours access to the school grounds to create a private place for himself. Eventually, he forges a connection with the art teacher's daughter, who is also making clandestine use of the Caramoor property. Corrigan's plotting is occasionally sluggish, but Emil proves to be a fascinating central character. His flippant, defiant manner and casual attitude toward drugs, sex, and school conceal a deeply introspective person, lost in a conventional academic setting and alternately missing and resenting his more popular brother. Those who can handle Emil's frank narrative and raw language will find his almost brutal self-awareness and growing confidence touching.
—Christi VothCopyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780439832441
  • Publisher: Scholastic, Inc.
  • Publication date: 8/1/2008
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 336
  • Age range: 12 years
  • Product dimensions: 5.00 (w) x 7.00 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Eireann Corrigan is the author of the poetry memoir You Remind Me of You, and the novels Splintering, Ordinary Ghosts, and Accomplice, which Publishers Weekly called "haunting and provocative" in a starred review. She lives in New Jersey.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
( 6 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 6 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 8, 2009

    pretty good

    I really enjoyed this book. For some reason it took me forever to read, i'm normally a fast reader, but this one felt better to draw out and enjoy for longer. I liked all the different parts of it-they worked well together. I also really liked the characters, they definitely seemed real. My only problem was the ending. I felt like it was a little to abrupt. But other than that, an interesting story that I would recommend!

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  • Posted November 13, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Reviewed by Karin Perry for TeensReadToo.com

    Emil's life has been turned upside down in the last year. His mother has died of cancer and his brother, who he has always looked up to, has disappeared without a trace. Emil and his father don't communicate about anything important and rarely see each other due to his father's work schedule. The only friend he has is Soma, a rule-bending, line-crossing boy who is in the same grade as Emil. <BR/><BR/>Nothing exciting happens to Emil. He is average in every way. His brother, Ethan, was the bright, shining star with all the friends, good grades, and a way with the ladies. Emil just lives in Ethan's shadow. He attends Caramoor Academy, a private school with a hefty tuition. Since everything has happened in his family, Emil's grades have started to slip and his father is riding him harder than ever to make the grade; especially since he is paying so much for him to go to school at Caramoor. <BR/><BR/>Emil does have the key though -- the key to notoriety, the key to exploration, the key to discovery. One day before Ethan left home, Emil was digging around in his bedroom and found an actual key. When he asked Ethan what the key unlocked he received a surprising answer: the key was a master key to the entire Caramoor Academy campus. Every door in every building was available to the person who held the key. Emil asked if he could have it and unbelievably, Ethan said yes. Normally the key was passed from one student to another each year. No one except the key holder was supposed to know who had it. The goal of the year was to pull off a monumental prank. <BR/><BR/>Emil's chance at greatness comes when his father has to go out of town for a long business trip and he has four days and nights home alone. He decides to use his time exploring Caramoor Academy. He sets up a makeshift bed in the attic of the main building and proceeds to unlock every door he can find. One evening during his exploration, Emil sees the art studio lit up and hears music blaring from the room. He finds a girl inside spinning a clay pot. He is shocked and doesn't give her his real name because he doesn't want to get caught, but he also wants to find out what she is doing there. After some conversation, he realizes she is the daughter of the art teacher at the Academy. <BR/><BR/>Over the next several days Emil and Jade, the girl in the art studio, form a relationship that leads them to many discoveries about themselves, about the death of Emil's mother and Ethan's role in it, and the importance of friendship. Eireann Corrigan has written a complex novel with true-to-life young adult characters that grow throughout the course of the story. Definitely for older teens, this novel covers topics such as grief, loss, family, and discovery with compassion and humor.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 5, 2007

    A reviewer

    this book is amazing. I truely hated reading until I picked out this book for my book talk in class. I couldn't stop reading it and I can't wait until I share it with my class.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 4, 2007

    Absolutely Amazing.

    Ever since You Remind Me of You, Eireann Corrigan has captivated me. I didn't much care for Splintering, but i still couldn't wait to get this book when i did, i wasn't dissapointed. The style and voice of Ms. Corrigan is simply fantastic--sharp, blunt, raw, emotional, simple, understated, quick-to-the-point and satiracal. The book is completely realistic, and completely accurate. If you are considering the book purely for 'the key' aspect--don't--that takes a back seat to a deeper story of self-healing and love. Absolutely perfect.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 30, 2009

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 9, 2010

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Sort by: Showing all of 6 Customer Reviews

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