I had originally planned to read Platform Seven by Louise Doughty for this prompt. And I still hope to read it soon as it has been on my shelf for far too long. Instead I have read Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes.
What it’s about?
Twelve-year-old Jerome is shot by a police officer who mistakes his toy gun for a real threat. As a ghost, he observes the devastation that’s been unleashed on his family and community in the wake of what they see as an unjust and brutal killing.
Soon Jerome meets another ghost: Emmett Till, a boy from a very different time but similar circumstances. Emmett helps Jerome process what has happened, on a journey towards recognizing how historical racism may have led to the events that ended his life. Jerome also meets Sarah, the daughter of the police officer, who grapples with her father’s actions.
What I think:
Oh my goodness! This is such a powerful book. It’s simply but beautifully written. And utterly heartbreaking.
There are dual timeliness – one for when Jerome is still alive which tells the story if his day at school and how he ends up being shot by the police.
In the second timeline Jerome is a ghost. He watches his family and sees the anger, grief and love they share.
In Jerome’s afterlife he meets the other ‘ghost boys’ – young black boys who have been killed due to racism or police brutally. Among then he meets Emmett Till and learns of the brutally he experienced years earlier.
He also makes unlikely friends with Sarah, the white daughter of the policeman who kills him. She is struggling to come to terms with her father’s actions. She is confused by the way that he is both vilified and hailed a hero. She does not accept the idea that the shooting was a simple mistake and is looking for deeper answers.
This is a haunting book in some many ways. While highlighting the huge gulf between communities, racism within society and institutions, poverty, gun violence and inequality in America, it also reminds the reader of the real families behind the newspaper headlines. Both Jerome and Sarah’s families are irreversibly changed by the events. They all grieve for what has happened and all learn and heal.
This is such a tragic story, sadly one that will be told again.
A great read.