*This review will contain spoilers!*
When you die, the heart just stops.
When she died, my heart just stopped.
If you haven’t guessed by the title, ‘Marly’s Ghost’ is David Levithan’s retelling of the classic ‘A Christmas Carol’ by Charles Dickens. The thing that makes this not a direct copy is that the main character, Ben, is haunted by the ghosts of Past Love, Present Love and Future Love following the death of his girlfriend, Marly, and the novel is set on Valentine’s Day Eve rather than Christmas Eve.
Other than those two aspects, this book is basically a direct copy of the Dickens classic, which is a novel I hold very close to my heart. When I hear a book described as a retelling, I normally expect quite a few changes to the characters, or differences to the plot, to make the retelling more unique, but there is nothing that particularly stands out about this book.
In fact, I pretty much hated it. Not even pretty much, I hated this book. Ben and his girlfriend, Marly, have been together for a pretty long time in teenage relationship standards, and he has supported her through her entire struggle with cancer. Yet his friends all seem pretty bummed out when he won’t celebrate Valentine’s Day by partying with them a mere four months after she dies. So this is the story of a boy with a dead girlfriend and a group of highly insensitive friends… Great justification for his dead girlfriend’s ghost to show up and basically tell him it’s time for him to get over it and move on with his life.
Then the ghosts turn up and tell him if he doesn’t get over his girlfriends death RIGHT NOW, he’ll end up killing himself in two years. There doesn’t seem to be any acknowledgement of the fact that time heals wounds, and death is easier to cope with when it has been longer than four months. It just seems to be imperative that he moves on from her and stops his silly displays of emotions as quickly as possible.
There really is nothing else to say about this book. It really is all there is. Ah, there’s a nice scene between Ben and the Ghost of Present Love, when she tells him to blame people’s discretions on the individuals, rather on the entity that they claim inspires them (a good piece of advice, when multiple people claim hatred on different gods due to the actions of extremist individuals) but other than this there is nothing of worth in the novel. I can tell it’s meant to be an enlightening story about how the memories of people we love keep them alive after they’ve gone, and how it’s not worth wallowing in grief when you’re lucky that you still have a life to live, but in my opinion it’s perfectly fine to grieve for four months after your loved one has died. In fact, it’s okay to grieve for as long as you like – it’s an individual process!
If you haven’t read a David Levithan book, don’t start with this one. It seems to be a soulless commercial product, with none of Levithan’s usual creative uniqueness that makes him stand out in the YA crowd. I think the publishers wanted a cute little Valentine’s release to lead up to the release of ‘Hold Me Closer: The Tiny Cooper Story’, and I’m sure that this sold a lot of copies, but please don’t fuel it any further. This is not a good book, not at all.