Thursday, February 18, 2010

Ghost in the Machine - Patrick Carman


Close to a year ago, the kids and I read "Skeleton Creek", and was pretty entertaining for all of us. If you haven't heard of this book, it is really quite clever. The book is a collection of diary entries written by teenager Ryan McCray. He and his best friend Sarah have uncovered some sinister goings-on in their small town of Skeleton Creek. Because Ryan has recently broke his leg, he does most of the online snooping, and Sarah runs around town with her video camera documenting suspicious characters. At intervals in the book, you are directed to log onto a website and watch Sarah's findings. Cross-media to reel in the non-readers! I love it! There was a cliff-hanger at the end of the book, and the three of us were insane wanting to read the follow-up book "Ghost in the Machine".

So we get our hands on "Ghost in the Machine" this past August - a gift from my Scholastic rep Mary (who is just the best). After reading about half the book with the kids, they lost all interest. I had to employ guilt tactics to get them to sit and listen to my narrating skillz. Finally, five months later, I decided to just finish the darned thing myself, and get it off my kitchen table.

Ryan and Sarah's adventures continue. They discover more clues to the mystery behind Skeleton Creek, and the creepy dredge at the edge of town. Ryan's dad is involved somehow, people keep dying, and Ryan and Sarah begin to suspect that they might be next on the hit list. All is revealed at the end of the story, with an unmasking of the evil-doer. It was all a bit too Scooby-Doo, frankly.

I guess I can't really blame my kids for ditching the story. It was more of the same antics that we saw in the first book, except a bit drier, with a concept that is no longer new. After reading such superb YA novels recently, such as "Life As We Knew It", or "The Adoration of Jenna Fox", or the brilliant works of Jacqueline Woodson, this story fell flat. On the other hand, the use of both the written word and the Internet makes the experience very three dimensional, and may likely entice the techno-savvy tweens and teens to turn off the TV or video game and read a book. You can't argue with that.

2.5 out of 5 stars



15 comments:

Anna said...

Skeleton Creek sounded really unique, but it's disappointing that the second book falls short.

I do the same thing with The Girl...start reading with her, she loses interest, finish book myself. You are not alone! :)

--Anna
Diary of an Eccentric

Julie P. said...

You have me sold on reading SKELETON CREEK at least!

Frances said...

Have found across the board that kids do not like this offering - either of them. They get drawn in by the cover and invariably return the book early and unfinished. To follow on your own thought, the Scooby Doo thing is really only working for Scooby Doo.

rhapsodyinbooks said...

I love the line "It was all a bit too Scooby-Doo, frankly." I must borrow that one in the future! :--)

bermudaonion said...

It sounds like the novelty has worn off. Thanks for your review.

Serena said...

bummer that the novelty of these books wore off so quickly!

Ti said...

I enjoyed the first one. I was impressed by the concept and thought, "Wow! What a neat idea!"
However, I haven't picked up the second book because it's not a new concept anymore and it would feel rather repetitive. My son had no interest in book two at all.

That Scooby Doo line is classic. That's one I am going to remember.

ds said...

Your line about Scooby Doo is a classic! And you're right: when the kids see through the gimmicks, it's time to re-think the story (such as, perhaps, having one?). Great job, Sandy!

The Bumbles said...

I think DS is on to something. Maybe it isn't that the interactive concept gets stale, but instead that the story driving the interactive bit is lacking.

I like the original concept - hopefully other authors will employ it to reach more people put off by books alone.

And by the way - the plots sound a lot like Hitchcock's Rear Window - which I love!

Beth F said...

I usually like to separate my reading from my online time, so I'm not sure if either one is for me. My nephews might like Skeleton Creek.

Kathleen said...

Hmmm...sounds like a disappointing sequel which I find is often the case with books AND movies. In any case the first one sounds really good and the cross promotional stuff with the internet is ideally suited for our kids who live and breath the internet but are not always interested in sitting and reading a book for hours and hours!

Nymeth said...

I hate it when a sequel just recycles the first book :\ Sorry this was such a let down!

heidenkind said...

That's too bad. At least you know your kids have good taste, though, right?

Jenners said...

That's a shame it was so disappointing. But at least your kids have good taste!

Zibilee said...

Oh no! Sorry to hear that this second book fizzled for your kids. I guess the novelty was just a little worn by the time you got to it. I think my kids might enjoy the first book, so I will have to see if I can grab it for them. Hopefully they will move on to better books soon!