The Girl and The Ghost by Hanna Alkaf: My First Spooky Read This Year

The fourth book I managed to finish this month admittedly left me with quite a handful to think hence the moment of silence. Framing the issue of bullying, a broken family, and Malaysian folklore such as pelesit in the form of a middle-grade story, The Girl and The Ghost by Hanna Alkaf wrecked me emotionally while creeping me out at the same time also.

It follows the story of the lonely Suraya whose mother always seems so distant ever since she was little. Luckily for her, Suraya's unknown grandmother left her a pelesit and so the loner and the ghost became friends. Everything gradually changes though when Suraya attends a new school a little far from home and befriends a new student named Jing. Pink, the name Suraya once gave to the pelesit, is bothered by the existence of his master's new friend that he can't seem to suppress his dark side that is looming larger and larger over time.

I will first admit that how the story unfolded in this book was quite remarkable. With a lot going on in only 270 pages or so, The Girl and The Ghost was fast paced and overall great: it started out fun while eventually going darker as the story went on. I was deeply immersed in the tale and would go as far as to say that the writing style was my favorite.

Experiencing Malaysian culture and folklore through this story was such a thrilling experience too. If you're interested in exploring quite a number of ghost variations in an interesting way, this book would be a good choice to pick up. It was also fun to stumble upon a lot of things I could recognize. However, there were also times when I thought footnotes were much needed to define the meaning of cicak, sabar, mau pergi mana, etc. As an Indonesian I could easily understand them, but I don't think I could state the same for other international readers.

Thankfully, the conclusion was great and quite fulfilling (I might have shed some tears if that's what you're asking). Even though the conflict seemed to be unraveled a little too quickly, I still adored the way Suraya and Jing handled everythingand on top of that, how they maintained their friendship. I was also relieved to find out that despite the distant relationship Suraya shared with her mother, she was still the one Suraya chose to turn to. Adult intervention should be something underlined in cases like this, especially considering how abusive the bullies turned out in this book. In the end, I was only slightly disappointed that we didn't get to see more of Pink's turning point. It would be much more believable if he got to go through... more.

Please note that this opinion came from a scaredy-cat: while I did enjoy the story of The Girl and The Ghost so much, I also noticed that this book might be a little too scary for young readers. The tortures and bullying were made kind of explicit, and even if they weren't totally gruesome, some scenes still managed to spook me. Still, I would label it as a perfect Halloween read (even if I was half a month late) and so there goes without saying that I would totally recommend this book if you're looking for a ticket to experience something middle-grade and spooky.

Actual rating: 3.9