The Girl and the Ghost by Hanna Alkaf
Publication: August 4th 2020 by HarperCollins
Genre: middle grade, fantasy, #ownvoices
A Malaysian folk tale comes to life in this emotionally layered, chilling middle grade debut, perfect for fans of The Book of Boyand The Jumbies.
I am a dark spirit, the ghost announced grandly. I am your inheritance, your grandmother’s legacy. I am yours to command.
Suraya is delighted when her witch grandmother gifts her a pelesit. She names her ghostly companion Pink, and the two quickly become inseparable.
But Suraya doesn’t know that pelesits have a dark side—and when Pink’s shadows threaten to consume them both, they must find enough light to survive . . . before they are both lost to the darkness.
Fans of Holly Black’s Doll Bones and Tahereh Mafi’s Furthermore series will love this ghostly middle grade debut that explores jealousy, love, and the extraordinary power of friendship.
the girl and the ghost is a book that i’ll still reread for years to come. it evokes a familiar sense of belonging with hanna alkaf’s writing. the immersive malaysian folklore with a mixture of malicious ghosts and friendly ones give the book a touch of spookiness and light-heartedness. there’s deliciously described food that makes you want to travel to malaysia just to have a taste of it all. most importantly, it’s a story of an once-lonely girl who found a friend who’s a ghost. there were elements of bullying, forgiveness and letting go.
as a pelesit, pink has a darker side that was unseen by suraya when they first met. pink often mentions that he’s unfeeling, doesn’t have a heart, and don’t know what’s human emotions. however, he gradually realises that the lack of a physical heart doesn’t mean that he isn’t affected by what’s going on. for a mischievous ghost, he has a lot of wise quotes. by the end of the book, pink has grown a lot. he acknowledges his feelings with surety and wasn’t hesitant about anything.
I am a dark spirit, the ghost said desperately. I am a powerful being. I have the wisdom of the ages. I cannot be called PINK.
suraya seems wise beyond her years. for her whole life, it has been her and her mother. suraya’s sweet and kind but a lonely girl. when pink showed up one day, she finally had a friend all to herself. filled with curiosity, suraya has always wondered about her grandmother and her father but her mother would never tell her anything.
even though their friendship got a little sour and toxic in the middle, it was still heartwarming to see suraya and pink conquer the obstacles together. i loved that suraya calls out all of pink’s toxic behaviors and is proactive in making him stop even if it were towards her bullies.
“They’re never mistakes,” she told him. “Only chances to make something new.”
i thought it was going to be a light-hearted novel but boy, was i wrong. there’s an undertone of creepiness and it’s not even attributed to the existence of the main ghost, pink, and every other ghosts we’ve met who were funny and normal. ironically, it’s the living that are making things scary.
the last thing i was expecting from this middle grade standalone was my crying. i did not anticipate that the girl and the ghost would make me teary-eyed. honestly, i was so caught up in the story that nothing else mattered except for finishing the book. that’s why, i wasn’t doing any form of detective work to the mystery they were trying to solve, and hence, why i got so emotional. i don’t know BUT IT WAS SO GOOD.
lastly, i loved how ingrained the malaysian culture is in the girl and the ghost. the yummy malaysian delicacies that i’m currently craving include nasi lemak, sembal belachan, and pisang goreng. I WANT THEM. i loved how easy it was to read hanna alkaf’s works because of how much i do identify with the way the characters are speaking. it’s refreshing to see them in books especially when i’m so used to how non-asian books are written. there are words and phrases like “aiyah” or “you have me now what” which i’m familiar with in my everyday life.