I read Ghost Squad by Claribel A. Ortega for our Young at Heart Cannon book club. I am so glad this book came into my life. 2022 has been plagued with a few reading slumps from the pandemic. However, this middle-grade book got me back into the groove. I read the audiobook, which I highly recommend.
The supernatural mystery follows two friends, Lucely and Syd, who live in St. Augustine, Florida. Lucely is Dominican-American and can see her ghost relatives. She speaks to their spirits who fly around in the form of fireflies. Lucely tends to them in a jar and talks to them every day. Her mother has recently passed but hasn’t made contact yet. Lucely is being raised by her father who runs a ghost tour business. He sadly no longer can see his ghostly relatives. One day, Lucely overhears that her dad’s business is in trouble. They may even lose their house. With Syd, she tries to cast a spell to help him get more business. Instead, they accidentally release malicious spirits across the town. The two girls must rid the town of these angry ghosts before it’s too late. In a very similar set-up as The Goonies, the duo must decipher clues and uncover the buried secrets of the town. Syd’s grandma happens to be a witch and lends a much-needed hand. The girls stole her magic book, which got them into this mess, so understandably need to consult with her.
What a delightful book! In line with the theme, this novel did make me yearn for my childhood. I used to live in a small town subdivision with lots of wooded areas. I wandered trails and discovered old graveyards, imagining I was on an adventure. Thankfully, no angry ghosts were discovered! Ortega deftly weaves in Latinx culture and supernatural elements with this fun story. I loved how close the family of ghosts was with Lucely. They impart wisdom to her and help her defeat the angry spirits. The entire premise is based upon a young girl who wants to help her father. Who doesn’t love that? The kids mostly solve the mystery on their own, but with some strategic help from Lucely’s dad and Syd’s grandma. The grandma is a bit scary, as witches can be in these types of books. I adored her and how she ends up a loving mentor who jumps in when things get dangerous. Even though this is for kids, there are definitely some supernatural thrills.
I’d recommend Ghost Squad to fans of middle-grade fantasy adventures, Ghostbusters: Afterlife, The Monster Squad, or Aiden Thomas’s Cemetery Boys.
If you enjoyed this, Ortega’s next book Witchlings arrives on February 3rd, 2022. You can pre-order to receive a special Edgar Allan Poe pin today.