The One with a Danish Ghost (but Not Hamlet)

Birgit Lorentzen, Cykose (Danish 2011, French 2013)

Recently I went looking for Harper Lee’s To kill a mockingbird in the YA area of our neighborhood children library, and I discovered that our library doesn’t have it: much to my surprise, this book is not well-known over here in France, but I want to read it in 2017, so I will probably buy it… or maybe go to an adult library branch because I just can’t believe that the book is nowhere to be found.

Instead of Lee, I went for Lorentzen (the writer next up on the shelve), because I was intrigued by the idea of a Danish ghost story for teenagers. It seems quite improbable for a small press to venture into such an improbable project. And yet, I hardly could drop the book, because it was suspenseful and fresh and creepy!

Luisa would be a typical 15-year-old with a father fan of sports, an annoying little sister and a mother who hasn’t got her bearings with her daughter yet, if only she could sleep at night! Every night, a young girl visits her and terrifies her. The ghost seems so real, but Luisa is the only one to see her… until another student from her high-school, Thomas, reveals that he can see her too! Luisa isn’t sure what to do: she isn’t really into supernatural stuff, and Thomas is a weirdo everyone makes fun of, as he is in a special class for kids with mental health issues. She doesn’t want to be associated with him, and yet he seems to be the only one who can help her getting rid of the ghost. Thomas is charming and has a sweet spot for Luisa, but tracking the ghost also seems to unbalance his mental health even further, and puts his life at risk.

I enjoyed this quick read quite a lot in the last days of December. I love the way that the supernatural is weaved into real teenagers’ life, and there’s nothing woo-woo about it. It reminded me of the book with the shop that sells memories, which was targeted for middle grade readers, although this one is for readers a bit more mature. I love the way the adults around Luisa and Thomas are not bad people, but not doing a great job at parenting either. Of course, Luisa and Thomas develop some kind of relationship, but there’s nothing mushy-gushy about it either, especially in the ending. It’s great that characters, even secondary ones, get that much depth within not so many pages.

No-nonsense Scandinavian YA magical realism, I call it. If it’s a real thing, let me know, I want to read more of it! (In fact, this book is the first of a series, so I *will* probably get more of it!)


2 thoughts on “The One with a Danish Ghost (but Not Hamlet)

  1. Wow, no Harper Lee! It is an amazing book–I hope you find a copy. The movie adaptation was good, too. I do like the sound of this one as well. I do that sometimes–pick a book from a spot where I was expecting to find something else. Always nice when it ends up being a satisfying read, too!

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