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*The Ghosts of Lone Jack* by Lance Lee Noel- young readers fantasy book review
The Ghosts of Lone Jack
by Lance Lee Noel
Ages 9-12 256 pages Spinning Moon Press July 2008 Paperback    

When ten-year-old Jared visits his grandfather in Lone Jack, Missouri, he expects it to be a normal summer vacation filled with baseball, fishing, and hanging out with his friends. Surprises are in store for Jared, though: this is the summer that he runs headlong into the Civil War-era ghosts of Lone Jack.

With all the stress in his life lately –his mother’s death, his grandfather’s failing health, and his father’s decline into self-pity and alcohol—Jared could convince himself that he’s imagining the eerie images. It isn't long before the reality of those restless spirits is forced into the open, however. Not only are others seeing the shadows from long ago, but the Long Jack ghosts are a lot more dangerous than it first seems.

Ghosts, of course, are something like memories of a person. They repeat the same actions over and over, sort of like a few seconds of a movie that plays out, rewinds, and plays again. Ghosts never seem to be aware of the living people around them, and they can’t touch or move solid objects. They’re scary, but not harmful.

Jared and his friends quickly realize that what they are dealing with aren’t ghosts of the traditional kind, and they certainly aren’t harmless. Sirus, one of the adult characters who knows just how real the past can be, explains, “These ghosts here are carryin’ around things so intense that they’re ready to explode.”

Pretty soon the veil between past and present all but disappears, and ghosts spill over into Jared’s world, armed and ready to kill.

Author lance Lee Noel, a native of Missouri and a history buff, has filled The Ghosts of Lone Jack with fascinating details about Civil war battle tactics and history, and with the people who endured this bloody time in United States history. His present-day characters are complex and well-drawn and show themselves to be just as brave when facing their internal demons as when battling the ghostly ones.

Unfortunately, The Ghosts of Lone Jack suffers from a lack of professional editing. The pacing is erratic and spoils the dramatic impact of the story, making it too easy to put down. Sometimes the narrative is downright baffling, as in this sentence:
“Blow it out your hole, Mr. Lovelace,” Shanks snapped, but still addressing the man with the respect his parents had taught him to show to adults.
Noel has a lot to offer in the YA genre, and certainly could make history both entertaining and memorable for his readers – if those readers can make it past these roadblocks. Let’s hope he finds a more diligent editor for his next book.

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  Deborah Adams/2009 for curled up with a good kid's book  

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