Trace Carter doesn’t know how to feel at ease in his new life in New York. Even though his artsy Auntie Lea is cool, her brownstone still isn’t his home. Haunted by flashbacks of the accident that killed his parents, the best he can do is try to distract himself from memories of the past.
But the past isn’t done with him. When Trace takes a wrong turn in the New York Public Library, he finds someone else lost in the stacks with him: a crying little boy, wearing old, tattered clothes.
And though at first he can’t quite believe he’s seen a ghost, Trace soon discovers that the boy he saw has ties to Trace’s own history—and that he himself may be the key to setting the dead to rest.
As part of this, he goes to the New York Public Library where he ends up finding a boy crying. He soon notices that the boy is transparent- a ghost. As part of his research, he learns about a riot where people burned down the Colored Orphan Asylum and a child may have died. He digs deeper into this trying to understand if this could be the child who died. As he navigates therapy and his school project, he also learns more about the boy he has seen and his family history.
What I loved: The ghost was a relatively small part of the story, but the history lesson was really interesting. We learn a lot through Trace as he investigates. This is also an interesting portrayal of grief, PTSD and the slow recovery of healing in a middle grade book. I really liked how they showed some of the therapy sessions, which is great for young readers to view.
There are also some themes about racism in modern (and historical) America. When Trace reports the ghost as a lost child (before he is fully sure that the boy is a ghost) and the security guards cannot find him, they detain him and confiscate his phone. His aunt discusses this with him in a way that young readers can understand.
What left me wanting more: There were a few comments that were really unnecessary and I wish had been left out or handled more fully/deeply. The first are around the comments about the librarian and the way the boys talk about her body, which felt unnecessary to her description and a bit close to sexual harassment. The second is when an older woman comments about men in general negatively, and Trace assumes she is a lesbian before she mentions her husband. This is not further explained and seemed a little odd or stereotyping.
Final verdict: Overall, this is an interesting story that combines history with the present. The ghost adds an interesting element to the book that gives it an air of mystery. I would recommend for people looking for lightly supernatural stories/mysteries and books about healing.