Ghostboy, Chameleon and the Duke of Graffiti – Olivia Wildenstein – Smashwords – Published 8 April 2015
Some endings are inevitable, but so are some stories.
Cora Matthews, the principal’s gloomy goth daughter, is not exactly popular Duke Meyer’s type. Still, Duke finds himself inexplicably drawn to her dark eyes and mysterious manner. She makes it clear she doesn’t return his admiration, but when a burst appendix lands Duke in the hospital, he and Cora will be forced to come together by the most unlikely intermediary: her eight-year-old brother, Jaime.
Duke learns Jaime has brain cancer and little chance of long-term survival. He admires the kid’s plucky positivity and wild imagination and offers to write a story about Jaime’s make-believe superheroes. So begins an epic tale—that of Ghostboy, Chameleon, and the Duke of Graffiti—and a deep friendship between Duke and Jaime.
Despite their outward differences, Cora and Duke bond over their affection for Jaime, but unintended betrayal and Jaime’s advancing disease threaten to derail their blossoming romance before it can truly take root.
A beautiful story. It took me over half the book to become truly connected to the characters and invested in the plot, but it was totally worth it for the sweet and touching end.
Duke has it all: cool friends, a wealthy and stable family, good grades, popularity, and a chance to make it into the elite secret club at his school. But when he is caught performing the prank that will gain him entrance into the Alphas (previously mentioned secret club), he is sentenced to a month’s community service cleaning the school. These after-school cleaning sessions throw him into the path of Cora Matthews – goth girl, principal’s daughter and the one girl who is determined to have nothing to do with Duke. Duke is intrigued but easily distracted by the challenge of gaining a second chance at the Alphas and the cheerleader who clearly wants him (yes, you may insert eye roll here). When a burst appendix lands him in hospital Duke is offered an insight into Cora’s life and why she hides herself from the world. Her brother, Jaime, has brain cancer. Duke and Jaime form a strong friendship, and so begins the adventures of Ghostboy, Chameleon and the Duke of Graffiti.
I didn’t love the first half of this book, in fact I really struggled with it. You can tell it’s a great story, you just have to search for it under a seemingly clunky writing style. It’s not too bad, but descriptions of everyday details and unnecessary explanations disrupt the story. I think the main problem is that not a lot is happening at this point. As you read more you understand why you need those initial developments, but there is a long period before anything interesting happens. The story really picks up at the half-way point, though, and the writing style greatly improves. The second half of this book is fantastic. Duke and Jaime connect, and Duke and Cora bond/fight over their determination to do all they can to help Jaime realise his dreams. It was at this point that I became invested in the characters and started to like Duke. At first he seems like a shallow mother’s boy and reads like a stereotypical teenage boy – easily distracted, especially by girls – but he develops a whole lot more depth as the book progresses. The real star of this book, though, is Jaime. Honest, sweet and funny, this eight-year-old grabs your heart. Cora, too, is a nice addition to the story, and her relationship with Duke, when it finally does get going, is sweet and adds a nice balance to the story. The plot twist at the end is easy to spot coming, but that’s not the point – this book is about a little boy who is brave and imaginative and who wants to fly and save the world, or at least his sister. Further editing would improve the flow of this story, but overall it is a heartwarming and enjoyable book.
The publishers provided a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Category: Young adult fiction
Themes: teenagers, death, illness, bucket lists, relationships, sex and dating, friendship.
Age guide: Ages 13 and up.
Advisory: Sexual references and implied sexual situations. Coarse language, s***, a few instances of f***
Published: 8 April 2015
Format: Paperback, ebook. 318 pages.