ICv2 Stars: 5 (out of 5)
Posted by Brigid Alverson on August 29, 2018 @ 9:39 pm CT
Publisher: Lion Forge
Release Date: August 28, 2018
Creator: Brenna Thummler
Format: 240 pgs., Full-Color, Trade Paperback
Age Rating: 9-12 years
ICv2 Rating: 5 Stars out of 5
Sheets looks like a whimsical book at first glance, with its cover image of a sheet/ghost in a washing machine, but the color scheme and the ghost’s deadpan expression hint at the sadness within. The main character, 13-year-old Marjorie Glatt, lost her mother in a boating accident, and her father is paralyzed by grief, seldom emerging from his room. That leaves Marjorie to take care of her brother, keep the family laundromat running, and deal with the usual awfulness of middle school—including feeling like a ghost herself, as her classmates mostly ignore her. Her troubles are magnified by a ridiculous would-be entrepreneur who wants to turn the laundromat into a spa, and by the ghost of a young boy who hasn’t fully accepted the fact that he is dead.
Even the town Marjorie lives in feels sad. Thummler uses a muted palette that leans heavily on pink and blue, and somehow she is able to evoke just the sort of decay one finds in a lake town at the end of the season—little local businesses with lit-up signs, houses with clapboards decaying under layers of paint.
Despite this, there is indeed a whimsical side to this book. Thummler has created a whole world for the ghosts in this story, a sort of dilapidated summer camp with tumbledown cabins, a bathhouse, and a train station. Far from being a makeshift Halloween costume, sheets become an important part of her ghosts, their last remaining bit of physical presence, and she weaves that imagery into gentle jokes and a satisfying ending.
Thummler’s unfurls her story slowly, letting the reader see a little at a time of both Marjorie’s life and the ghost’s before bringing them together. It’s a gentle story with a quietly happy ending: The bad guy gets his comeuppance in an appropriately humorous way, but there’s no big smackdown of the mean girl or the snotty customers, just a feeling of acceptance and moving on.
This is a good choice for the reader who has aged out of Raina Telgemeier and Svetlana Chmakova’s books but isn’t quite ready for YA yet. Like The Wendy Project (see "Review; ‘The Wendy Project’ TP"), it deals with grief and acceptance of death, but in an imaginative and relatable way. Thummler has a sharp eye for telling details, whether in the human or the ghost world, and her story rings true, even if it is based on a goofy Halloween costume.