Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes

Posted May 3, 2021 by shooting in Book Review / 7 Comments

Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes
on April 17, 2018
Genres: 20th Century, African American & Black, Historical, People & Places, Prejudice & Racism, Social Themes, United States, Violence, Young Adult
Pages: 224
Format: Paperback

A heartbreaking and powerful story about a black boy killed by a police officer, drawing connections through history, from award-winning author Jewell Parker Rhodes.
Only the living can make the world better. Live and make it better.
Twelve-year-old Jerome is shot by a police officer who mistakes his toy gun for a real threat. As a ghost, he observes the devastation that's been unleashed on his family and community in the wake of what they see as an unjust and brutal killing.
Soon Jerome meets another ghost: Emmett Till, a boy from a very different time but similar circumstances. Emmett helps Jerome process what has happened, on a journey towards recognizing how historical racism may have led to the events that ended his life. Jerome also meets Sarah, the daughter of the police officer, who grapples with her father's actions.
Once again Jewell Parker Rhodes deftly weaves historical and socio-political layers into a gripping and poignant story about how children and families face the complexities of today's world, and how one boy grows to understand American blackness in the aftermath of his own death.

Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes is an important read. It’s a middle grade novel, but I think teens and even adults could – and should – be reading this. It’s one that you’ll want to really think about and even discuss. Ghost Boys is about the death – and life – of Jerome. He’s a twelve-year-old boy who is shot and killed by a white policeman. This isn’t a new story; it’s not even a new fact. It’s a horrific reality of life where black men – and boys- are disproportionally shot and killed by the police.

The writing style in Ghost Boys is stripped back, allowing emotion to come through without too much detail. It’s about Jerome, but it’s also about his friends and family who have been left behind. It’s also about the white policeman who shot him, and especially his young daughter who is left to struggle with how to view her father after the death of someone around her age. I really appreciated that Rhodes shares the perspective of more than just Jerome, because while it’s outrageous that he has been taken so young, there are many left behind who are now meant to live with this.

The “ghost boys” in the story are all those black and brown boys – and men – who have been killed, by police and others. No matter their age, no matter the circumstances, they should never have been killed.

7 responses to “Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes

  1. Thanks for this recommendation; it looks like a lot of teachers are recommending this book for their students right now. So relevant and so important. I just bought it myself. Thank you!

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