Thursday, April 20, 2023

Ghosts of Rancho Espanto

Cuevas, Adrianna. The Ghosts of Ranch Espanto
April 4, 2023 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (Byr)
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Rafa and his friends Beto and Yesi in Miami are heavily investsed in the role playing game The Forgotten Age, and at the end of the school year decide to take their adventures into the real world by stealing the slushie machine from the school cafeteria. They're caught, of course, and Rafa's father decides to forego the usual punishments of taking away Rafa's electronic's, and sends him away to his friend's ranch in New Mexico. Jonas, the director, knew his father at the Univeristy of Miami, and agrees to have Rafa work with him. There is another reason that Rafa's father might want to send him away; Rafa's mother is fighting multiple myeloma. Right away, Rafa meets Jennie Kim, whose mother is the ranch librarian, and whose father was a college history professor before he passed away. Rafa doesn't mind feeding the horses and mucking out stalls, but something is not right on the ranch. He keeps seeing a man in a green sweater around the ranch, and things start to go wrong. The Gearheart brothers cooking is making people sick, cows are disappearing, paintings change, and even Jennie's hoodies are affected-- they no longer have the names of universities she knows on them. Rafa and Jennie try to research different ghosts from the area, but have no luck. Finally, they meet someone who has the clue to the mystery, but is it believable? Rafa and Jennie must then work to make things right without jeopardizing their future. 
Strengths: Rafa's interest in an RPG was intriguing, and I liked how the game details were sometimes woven into the story. I also appreciated that his father sent him away to work after he tried to steal something! It was good for him to have a sidekick at the ranch, and Jennie is a calmer and more focused foil for his frenetic attempts at investigating. There is a lot of cultural connections to Rafa's family, and some Spanish words sprinkled through the story. The ghostly mischief is amusing, and this took an enormous twist that I definitely didn't see and don't want to ruin. Slight spoiler: this is really more of a time travel story than a ghost one! 
Weaknesses: The cover is a little dark and vague, and it's not quite the flavor of ghost story my students request.
What I really think: This is a good choice for readers who like books with magical realism like this author's The Total Eclipse of Nestor Lopez or Urban's Almost Here and Almost Not

1 comment:

  1. This does make me curious about the twist at the end! I'm not sure if placing red-eyed (evil ghostly?) horses on the cover is really grabbing for mg-ers, but it might just be me.