Ghosts of Harvard by Francesca Serritella

Ghosts of Harvard by Francesca Serritella

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Other Possible Prompts: 22. An unlikely detective, 26. Has an “Author’s Note”

Trigger warning for this review: suicide and mental illness discussed throughout.

Quite possibly the fewest number of prompts a book has fit all year! I actually enjoyed this book for the most part, but I think it could’ve been at least one hundred pages shorter, hence my lower rating. The story is interesting, but I don’t know if it’s interesting enough to carry it nearly five hundred pages.

On the cusp of an incredible career in science, a Harvard degree, and his whole life ahead of him, Cady Archer’s brother Eric jumped from his dorm room window at Harvard University and left this world. His schizophrenia had turned his last few years into a disturbing frenzy, unlike the brother she had grown up with. Now, over a year later, Cady has decided to start her own degree there by joining the class as a freshman…however, there’s a lot more than legacy to her decision. Eric left behind a series of cryptic notebooks and unanswered questions, and Cady wants to know more about that last year of his life that took him from her.

As she meets his friends and teachers, and sees the sights he did, Cady grows increasingly confused by what she learns. Were Eric’s final months more than a delusion? Was he onto something with his concern about being watched – but too far into his illness to get the help and attention he needed? And what, then, of the voices she herself hears?

There was a lot going on in this book. There’s just…a lot of different story elements, so it becomes a bit hard to follow the point. I think it makes it entertaining, but as for the point she was trying to make…that was a bit lost in translation. There’s the mental illness aspect; Eric was schizophrenic, and evidently, Cady becomes concerned she is meeting the same fate. While she would already be predisposed to it, in her efforts to track Eric’s last movements, she put herself in the same environment that brought on his own schizophrenia and thus increased her odds of developing it. Then, it seems like maybe those voices are ghosts. Each of the voices in Cady’s head have historical reference at the college, which Cady picks up on from time to time. But then also, maybe they’re voices and bodies from another dimension? See there’s a lot happening here and it’s ultimately not clear to me, even at the end, which one we’re supposed to believe (or maybe we’re not supposed to care?).

Everyone Cady meets at Harvard sucks. I was going to sugarcoat it, but it’s honestly true. There isn’t a single character I liked without hesitation. Her roommates suck, her love interests suck, the professors suck. And while they’re not from Harvard, her parents, a central part of the story, also suck. Cady isn’t my absolute favorite, but she sucks significantly less than everyone else. I at least understood her; the other characters around her do really annoying, awful things with no rhyme or reason. It’s really no wonder Cady was having a bad time at Harvard.

There was an author’s note at the end detailing the historical research Serritella did to inform the personalities of the “ghosts”. I respect that, but what I was actually most worried about was her representation of schizophrenia. This is a huge part of the book, and truthfully I wouldn’t know if she had or had not done it justice, or given her characters and over-dramatized version of it. There is no mention of her background or research in this area, which bothers me. Has anyone read this and have some background knowledge that would shed some light on her representation of schizophrenia? I would be much more worried about this, than of her historical representation of some ghosts.

I think what bothers me most, even having enjoyed the ride of this story, is that it truly goes nowhere. The ending, in my opinion, clearly seems to be aiming for something, but misses its target. I couldn’t tell you what she meant by it.

This book was decent, but I don’t think I’m recommending it. I wouldn’t read it again, given the opportunity. Have a wonderful weekend.

Weather Girl by Rachel Lynn Solomon

Weather Girl by Rachel Lynn Solomon

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

The 52 Book Club 2022 Challenge Prompt: 23. An author with an X, Y, or Z in their name

Other Possible Prompts: 5. Chapters have titles, 36. Recommended by a favorite author, 45. A book with illustrated people on the cover, 46. A job title in the title, 52. Published in 2022

What a cute one! I was wary about Weather Girl because it sounded too similar to The Ex Talk that I didn’t think it’d be worth the read, but I was wrong. Weather Girl is all its own, and I enjoyed it even more than The Ex Talk. This is Solomon coming into her own.

Weather Girl follows Ari, weather-obsessed twenty-something meteorologist, after her engagement is broken off and she’s finally had enough of her divorced bosses fighting with one another. The tension is so bad, she’s starting to dislike her job – and there’s nothing Ari loves more than rain and her job. Drunk after a holiday party, her and her sports reporter coworker Russell hatch a plan to get their bosses back together.

The more time they spend together scheming, the closer Russell and Ari grow. But Ari, carrying the baggage of depression and being burnt by past relationships, is hesitant despite her comfort with Russell. And Russell, a parent, has a tough time bringing his two worlds together.

I cannot start this review without saying the representation of mental illness in this story, and the conversations around them, are so well done. It’s easy to glamorize things like depression and anxiety through literature, but Solomon’s characters are frank and honest about trauma; and even better, they’re having self-aware and critical conversations to do better for themselves and those around them. Not to just “be better”, but to be kind to ourselves and our reactions to things as people with mental illness. The people in Ari’s life, particularly her brother, warm the heart with their unbridled support, without overstepping.

The romance, also, is a step up from The Ex Talk. I liked her debut, but it was admittedly slow and cooled off. This is much, much better. My hesitation to read her in the future has been whisked away by this one book. It reminded me more of a Jasmine Guillory novel, and I really liked that. Solomon hit that perfect note in tone with this one.

I really liked both Ari and Russell’s characters. Actually, there wasn’t really any characters in this one that I didn’t like! Torrance and Seth, their bosses that start the book as exes, are a little too much at first – but if there’s anything you can take from this book, it’s that people can grow. Even the characters I didn’t love at the beginning come around. They grow. And not just in little ways: there’s therapy involved, medication in some cases, and the journey from A to B is a long one. That sets this one apart in my opinion.

I’m also a sucker for a romance book with a kid in it… I loved Elodie, Russell’s daughter, and the element of depth she added to Russell’s character through their bond was really enjoyable to watch. Kids just soften a story somehow, even if they are in their pre-teen years. Elodie was a glowing supporting character to this story.

So, with all this good stuff, I definitely recommend Weather Girl. I only really gave it 4.5 stars because, like The Ex Talk, it took me a while to get through it for some reason. I got through three-quarters of it in just a couple hours, then proceeded to ignore it for like a week. I couldn’t tell you why, I just didn’t at all feel like picking it back up again.

But go get it!! That last line probably didn’t sell you, haha. But I really did enjoy this one, and I think fans of Jasmine Guillory, or those that enjoyed The Ex Talk, probably will as well.

Have an awesome week!