The Ghosts of Ashbury High by Jaclyn Moriarty

In the interest of full-disclosure I'd like to say up front that I have recently formed a new author crush. And it's a big one. In fact, my sole purpose in writing this love letter review is so that all of you will go out and immediately read The Ghosts of Ashbury High, therefore developing your very own all-consuming book crush in return. Considerate of me, eh?

Riley and Amelia have been a couple since they were fourteen years old. They are mysterious and beautiful and immediately cause a stir upon their arrival as Year 12 scholarship students at the exclusive private school in Castle Hill, Australia, Ashbury High. No one seems to know anything about these two, but everyone is noticing them and wants to be noticed by them. Even best friends Emily, Lydia, and Cassie. Emily, resident Drama Queen, quickly becomes obsessed with all things Riley and Amelia - her blog entries, even her answers to test questions focus on her observations of the pair (even if she sometimes confuses the definitions of words):
When I say they were "always together" I don't mean in the way of other couples.

Those couples who walk around making gurgling noises into the sides of each other's necks?


Those couples are as disgusting as a gothic sewerage system.

Riley and Amelia had rhythm that matched and yet they were separate. Like bicycle wheels.

Sometimes they spoke and it's true that their voices were murmurs. But not the too-much-cheap-chocolate-weird-feeling-in-my-chin murmur of those other couples. It was more like the way my parents talked this one time when we went camping. It was late, and my brother and I were in our sleeping bags in the tent, and we could hear Mum and Dad by the campfire. Their low voices talked about strange, important things, and I couldn't really catch what they were saying. But it seemed to me to be all about how their kids were kind of stupid, but funny.

That's the kind of murmuring Riley and Amelia shared.
Enigmatic and Unknown to Emily and her friends, Riley and Amelia seem to float above all their regular high school drama. Although, like in the finest gothic novels, there occurs within the hallowed halls of Ashbury High more excitement and drama than just the arrival of two unexpected (albeit spectacular) teens. With their final, end of high school, career-deciding, HSC exams just around the corner; Emily is sure a ghost is haunting Ashbury High, Lydia is holding onto an alienating, destructive secret, and the lovable Toby cannot seem to talk about anything but Irish convicts and black holes. And that's not even mentioning the ghost that is haunting Riley and Amelia.

The Ghosts of Ashbury High is unlike any other novel I have ever read. It's a ghost story. It's about growing up. It's a Gothic novel. It's about judgment and prejudices. It's a historical novel. It's about friends. It's about finishing high school. Furthermore, it's HILARIOUS, yet also dark and filled with heavy secrets. Jaclyn Moriarty effortlessly floats back and forth from the perspective of multiple characters through the medium of homework assignments, meeting minutes, blog entries, letters, and even exam answers on gothic literature. You would think this arrangement would be confusing or irritating to read, but really, just the opposite occurs. The quirky format allows the multi-faceted and multi-layered secrets of the students of Ashbury High to reveal themselves bit by bit; forming an interconnected web so stunning and complex, I was utterly entranced with every one of its hefty 480 pages. Every single character leaps off the page, fully-formed and independent. I cannot tell you how Ms. Moriarty has managed it, but I am in awe. If this is what I can expect from her other novels, I'll be picking those up without hesitation. Especially as I am happy to report that I currently have a copy of The Year of Secret Assignments sitting pretty on my shelf. Guess what I'll be reading next?

Other Ashbury High novels (not necessary to read in order)
~ Feeling Sorry for Celia
~ The Murder of Bindy MacKenzie (Becoming Bindy MacKenzie/The Betrayal of Bindy Mackenzie)
~ The Year of Secret Assignments (Finding Cassie Crazy)

~ The Ghosts of Ashbury High (Dreaming of Amelia)
Because Everyone Likes a Second Opinion:
The Bookette review
Kiss the Book review
Oops...Wrong Cookie review
Pipedreaming review

book source: publisher giveaway (thank you! thank you!)


Jill of The O.W.L. said...

I looked at this one when I was at Borders yesterday! I'm gonna see if it's in ebook form to put on my Nook. I thought is looked good and different. Glad to hear it's getting good reviews.

Lauren said...

Great review! I have this one in my TBR pile but I've been kind of hesitant to start it for some reason. Though, now I think I'm going to be reading it ASAP. Oh, and by the way The Year of Secret Assignments is awesome. I hope you enjoy it! :)

Angiegirl said...

Wow. That is some high praise. I've read the first two books in the Ashbury high series. Have your read FEELING SORRY FOR CELIA yet? I know they don't have to be read in order, but I do recommend that one. They were each funny and great. But none of them blew me away. Sounds like this one's something different. Very exciting.

Michelle said...

Jill - It is different, and I highly suggest it. I'd be interested to see what you think afterwards (esp. since I loved it).

Lauren - Bump it up now girl! It's great. And happy to hear SECRET ASSIGNMENTS is fun too - can't wait to dive in.

Angie - This is actually my first Ashbury novel and now I am frantically trying to find the rest. And yep - it's funny, but definitely a little different than anything else out there. I hope you like it too!

Chachic said...

This one looks interesting! I haven't read any of Jaclyn Moriarty's books so I'll add this one to my ever increasing wishlist.

Holly said...

Love the eclectic mix - I'll have to add this to the TBR. Thx!

Michelle said...

Chachic - I think you'll like it too! Don't wait too long to pick it up!

Holly - That's pretty much what I enjoyed about this novel as well.

Amy said...

I'm so glad to see that you've discovered this author! I loved all her previous books in the Ashbury series and it'd be awesome if you read & reviewed them. The other three books were amazing stuff and I'm really excited to read this one :)

Nomes (inkcrush) said...

Jaclyn Moriarty is my number one author crush. I've read this 3 times already and it gets better on every re-read :)

(It came out in November in Australia)

Feeling sorry for celia is also a beautiful, breath-taking read


Ana said...

How in the world did I miss this review? OMG isn't it AWESOME???? *THUD*

I just finished reading The Year of Secret Assignments and it is really, really good too. Plus, Seb and Lyd! : D

Starting on Bindy Mackenzie straight away.