Jessica’s Ghost by Andrew Norriss
This story is exquisite, it is beautifully written with characters that you warm to quickly. It tackles difficult issues and does so with great sensitivity. Jessica’s Ghost was shortlisted for the Costa Children’s Book award and reading it, it is very easy to understand why it has been so well received. It is definitely only for older readers. Teachers would definitely want to read it themselves before making it available to pupils and even then I would have thought it would probably only be suitable for the oldest and most mature primary aged pupils.
Through Francis, the main character, and his love of fashion and creating fashion, the story explores and celebrates the virtue of being different. He is often alone, and is very lonely, even when surrounded by people. At school he is bullied and life is tough. In meeting the ghost of Jessica, his life changes dramatically for the better and over time she puts him in touch with two other youngsters who are experiencing a similar level of loneliness, but for different reasons. There is no doubt that teenage readers of this beautiful novel will be able to identify with these characters and will find reassurance that actually it is okay to be different.
I really want you to read this book so I am not going to spoil the story by giving too much of the detail away, but you need to be aware that it deals with difficult issues, particularly depression and suicide. That said please don’t be put off, it is an absolute joy to read and definitely lifts the spirits.
The author is honest enough to admit in the book’s Acknowledgements that he has had bouts of depression himself and he has clearly drawn on this to make this story so poignant and moving. Andrew Norriss generally writes light hearted fiction (he co-wrote the hit BBC sitcom The Brittas Empire) so Jessica’s Ghost is definitely a departure for him, but a very welcome one.
I cannot recommend this book more strongly, even if you read it and decide not to use it with your children you will enjoy reading the book yourself. In reviewing the story, ‘Books for Keeps’ describes Jessica’s Ghost as ‘a heart-warming and uplifting read’ and I could not agree more.