Recommended for ages 12+
Francis is a middle schooler that isn’t very popular. He’s teased because he has a passionate interest in – and talent for – fashion, and tends to eat lunch by himself every day. Until Jessica wanders into the schoolyard and is amazed that he can see her, speak to her.
You see, Jessica’s a ghost. She died a year ago.
Francis and Jessica become fast friends. She models his designs for him, being able to think herself into a new outfit on a whim; he’s the only person that she’s been able to talk to in an entire year. They go places together, do things together, and Francis’ outlook changes; so much, that they end up meeting two more tweens that have a hard time of it in school. Together, the four become a tight unit – to all their parents’ surprise and joy. During one of their group discussions, they learn how Jessica became a ghost – how she died – and that touches off an incredibly deep and tender look at depression and suicide.
Jessica and Francis are like a balm for the soul. Their friendship sets off a positive chain reaction that resonates through the entire book. As someone who first suffered depression in my tweens, this story really touched me. Too often, young people suffer in silence when what they really need is to start talking. Jessica only appears to certain people – you’ll discover that in the book – and thus creates a safe nucleus for these tweens, giving them a focal point to gather around.
Much of the background characters are idealized in this story – the principal who has zero tolerance for bullying, the parents who listen to other kids to find out how best to help their own – but this is a glimpse into what could be, if only people would act instead of talk about how to act.
Put this book in guidance counselors’ offices, classrooms, and libraries. Make it available. The middle school and high school years are tough – this is a book that’s here to help.