Liesl is the classic victim of wicked step-mother malice. After murdering the child’s loving father, Liesl’s step-mother locked the young girl in the attic. Now Liesl has given up hope of ever seeing the outside world again, until she is visited by a ghost named Po. Po still possesses the ability to visit the living because he has not earned the right to pass to the permanent dwelling of the dead. Liesl befriends and Po searches for Liesl’s father, so that she can say good-bye to him one last time.
When Po does find Liesl’s father, he learns that he wishes to be buried next to her mother’s grave. Determined to grant her father’s wish, Liesl escapes from the attic with Po’s help. Liesl thinks she has her father’s ashes in a jewelry box. However, a careless mistake by another abused child (Will) mixes up two similar boxes. Before they know it, Liesl, Will and Po find themselves pursued by several unsavory characters.
Lauren Oliver’s novel combines a traditional storyline with a modern writing style and unusual plot twists. The reader has the sense that all the characters are somehow connected, but must wait until nearly the end of the story to discover how. Putting aside the author’s odd presentation of the afterlife, this book will leave young readers feeling that good does indeed triumph over evil.
Jennifer Minicus is a mother and teacher currently living in Ridgewood, NJ.