Ghostheart by Ananda Braxton-Smith

cover image

Secrets of Carrick, 3. Black Dog Books, 2013. ISBN 9781743032184.
(Age 13+) Highly recommended. Mally is always frightened, afraid to move from the edge of the shore, afraid to make friends. But there is change in Carrick and Mally may have to change too especially as the bully Dolyn Craig has appeared and seems to want something from her.
Braxton-Smith has once again written a beautiful lyrical story that defies being put into a category. It could be said to be historical, as it is set in a firm medieval setting and words from the language of the Isle of Mann appear regularly, but equally there are overtones of fantasy and magic realism. These combine to make Ghostheart a challenging, complex book to read, and one that will linger in my subconscious for a long time.
Mally is a very frightened girl. Ever since her best friend Dodi Caillet disappeared she has been too scared to go near the sea even when she is with all her brothers and sisters. Her only friends are Lovelypig, who had been the runt of the litter, and a strange girl, Breesh Dunna,  who haunts a sea cave and who encourages Mally to look into the scaaney pool to see visions. Her kind heart is revealed as she helps to look after an old man, Shenn Cooley, taking him meals and listening to his stories.
Initially the reader is convinced that Dolyn Craig is a just a bully but Braxton-Smith deftly weaves in his story, revealing how the Father at the monastery was responsible for putting the seeds of violence in his mind. Together Mally and Dolyn learn about themselves and each other and begin to accept what they are and what has shaped their actions.
This is a beautifully written story that would be ideal to give to readers who want something stimulating, that will get them thinking about the big ideas of war, conflict, fear and family. It is not necessary to have read the other two books in the Secrets of Carrick series, although they would give some insight into the background of the island. Teacher's notes are available at the publisher's website.
Pat Pledger