Cover Image: Brown Girl Ghosted

Brown Girl Ghosted

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Member Reviews

The cover is beautiful, and the description is extremely intriguing. What is not to like about "We Were Liars meets Riverdale with a supernatural twist in this timely thriller about mean girls, murder, and race in a quiet Midwestern suburb." However, the writing is awkward with a surprising number of errors at this point in publication, and the characters/events are a little unrealistic, even for a supernatural novel. I wanted to like this one so much, but it didn't do it for me.
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DNF at 10%. I'm sorry, I know that's way too early for a lot of people to DNF a book, but the prose is so irritating that I can't go on. The writing is stilted and awkward, and the chapter that explains the supernatural aspect of the story is a huge wall of exposition that should be exciting but just feels like a boring first draft or outline of the book's mythology. The teen speak is laughably outdated. I really wanted to like this, because I was excited about a spooky YA book with an Indian protagonist, but I can't force myself to keep reading. Such a disappointment.
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Such a great book. I learned a lot through the narrative. I would highly recommend this to many people looking for a short enjoyable read.
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Scheduled to post 5/1/20.

Where did I stop? 21% in

Why? The blurb made it sound so interesting and the concept had so much potential. I didn't want to believe the low ratings and bad reviews. Unfortunately, you better believe them. It read more like a first draft than anything even close to being pub-ready. The book's about a girl who abandons her supernatural warrior history yet the book doesn't start with that. No. You get that, in total passive voice, in chapter 3. The book starts with a tropey mean girl scene and the MC constantly referencing back to things that happened in the past as a way to dump as much exposition on you as humanly possible. All this book does is look backward. I know nothing about who Violet is as a person in the present day but I have her entire life story. Except I know she uses slang that ranges about 30 years (I promise no one uses wack anymore and hasn't since Justin Timberlake lost his bad bleach job) and is an encyclopedia of pop culture references. So many pop culture references. This book is trying so hard to be relevant and hip it's like the paper version of Amy Poehler's character in Mean Girls. It's just so horribly pandering it's uncomfortable and unnatural. Violet is a caricature of a teenager, has no depth, and does nothing to endear the reader to give a damn about her story. The story isn't bad in an enjoyable way. It's just bad and to call the writing mediocre would be a kindness. 

(I don't normally rate DNFs, but I can't post this review here without providing a star rating.)
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I guess I was expecting this to be a realistic fiction story so imagine my surprise to find a paranormal fantasy! Surprise, and delight. Violet is a fun narrator through her troubles in high school, her participation on the cheer squad, and her dealings with her ghostly ancestors who either want her to join their crusade or kill her - who can say for sure? Some of the themes are pretty mature for middle school, especially all the circumstances of Naomi's death, but it raises some important points. Das slides several real life issues into her fun fantasy including some lessons about racist microaggressions and a commentary about how society treats rapists as opposed to their victims.
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Netgalley kindly provided me with a copy of Mintie Das’ Brown Girl Ghosted in exchange for an honest review.  Despite having high hopes for this one (I mean, that cover looks amazing!), I ended up having to force myself to finish and feeling disappointed that I had made the effort.  

Violet Choudry is attempting to live the American teenage dream in small-town Illinois: she’s part of the dance team, has a crush who seems to be into her too, and is just friendly enough with the stereotypical mean girls that she can avoid too much notice.  However, her hidden talents include more than just killer dance moves: she can commune with the dead and achieve other magical feats, whether she wants to or not.  When one of the popular girls meets a murderous end, Violet gets the test of a lifetime as she is forced to track down the killer.

Two really nice things about the novel are the crisp writing and the irreverent (yet poignant) acknowledgement of the difficulties that Violet faces due to her race.  For example, Violet grapples with her secret powers by musing,  “Clark Kent, Bruce Wayne, and Peter Parker are too afraid to reveal their secret identities, and they are white guys.  Am I really supposed to believe that a teenage brown girl gets outed as an ethnic Harry Potter and they’ll throw me a parade?  No!  I’ll be burned at the stake like those Salem witches.” 

However, these moments of Das invoking the teenage voice with such success are too few and far between.  More often, I was left confused about Violet’s motivations, grossed out by the unnecessarily gruesome depictions of violence, and frustrated by the overall lack of verisimilitude (and yes, I realize this is a supernatural story, but even characters not involved in the fantastic elements seemed totally disassociated from reality).  Despite the interesting premise, school libraries would be safe in passing this one by.
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Sweet Baby Cthulhu. I read this crap so you wouldn’t have to. That’s what I told myself to get through three-fourths of Brown Girl Ghosted at least. I wanted to just walk away from it, but it was a friggin train-wreck that I couldn’t stop rubbernecking at.

My main complaint with this book boils down to: “Did it have an editor? At all? Even for five minutes?” Because, uh, how do I put this nicely… I’m pretty sure it didn’t. Yeah, okay, we give ARCs a pass for minor formatting errors and typos, etc, but I’m pretty sure there wasn’t a single section break other than a chapter heading in the entire thing, and sometimes even those were missed! 

It was a jarring, sloppy read from that alone.

But the story had its issues, too.

I gave Brown Girl Ghosted some slack because it’s a YA book and those are going to almost always be more focused on the hormonal side of things. (Shout-out here to books like Shutter by Courtney Alameda that managed to tell a good story without devolving into everyone is SO hot! And.. and…and.. Did I mention everyone was hot?) However, as you might have guessed by the previous sentence, I became very quickly disgusted with this book. Everyone was hot. ERRYONE. Okay? Like, OMG. Don’t you get it? FYI, everyone is SO hot!

…and if you get a little twitchy at abbreviations being used as actual speech, this book will bother you… I was able to overlook it the majority of the time, but when a girl stood up and shouted “OMG!” I eye-rolled so hard I gave myself a headache. Then there was the badonkadonk, so fly, etc.  While I could forgive some of the lingo because apparently some people do speak like that, it felt so crammed full of it that it came off more as a 40-year-old trying to speak like a ‘fly’ teenager than anything else.

What feels like most of Brown Girl Ghosted in a nutshell:

Everyone is hot.
I am, like, super-powerful but I don’t want my powers.
Did I mention everyone was hot?
Also, I’m on the POM squad and, like, just want to fit in, but, uhm, I have these special powers I don’t want, and did I mention everyone was hot?
The word “hot” in relation to how attractive people were was mentioned so many times I was ready to beg the author to please, for the love of all things moist and tentactly, pull up a bloody thesaurus and look for other ways to indicate desirability. PLEASE. Also, there’s just the fact that there is this emphasis on everyone being hot. I was a teen. I remember thinking, yeah, certain people were hot, but I did not rate everyone in my friggin life on a scale of how hot they were.

The best part of this novel is how persistently race plays a part in it. It makes you realize – in a way you really can’t understand as a white person – exactly how much race, and the knowledge that you are different simply because of that, affects so much of your life. There was a line about superheroes with secret identities being all white men, so how could an ethnic Harry Potter not get roasted at the stake that really struck me. It was a great paragraph and it’s a great topic.

The whole perceived sexuality comes into play multiple times as well and it should. Girls really are expected to ride the line, but not cross it. However, it’s not a clear cut line and it is way too easy for them to fall on the wrong side of it. As a parent of a child who will be a teen in a few years, it bothers me more than ever how much emphasis we put on the sexuality of teenage girls. We should be pushing them to develop their minds not forcing them to conform to ideas that started in men’s nether regions.

Unfortunately up until about the 60% point the book just isn’t worth reading. After that it gets more interesting – but how many readers are going to stick around for it to actually get good? I stuck through only because I was basically rage-reading by that point. From 75% on, it’s actually a halfway decent read. Is it a *good* read? When you’re going from pretty much bottom of the barrel bad, even a few steps up is still bad, you know? So it’s hard to say.

Maybe the author was trying to show us something in the maturation of Violet from the beginning of the book to the end. Maybe it was a growth for her going from everyone is hot to concentrating on the actual story itself. Maybe. Possibly. But even if it was, it was still sloppily executed.

I feel like some of the big publishers are not doing diverse voices any favors right now. (I’m reading another book by a diverse creator as well and I’m less than thrilled by its quality too.) It feels like they’re riding this wave, wanting to check boxes when they can but without looking for the best work out there AND/OR giving the creators all the support that they need. By all means – check the boxes! But don’t concentrate so hard on checking the diverse box that you forget to check the quality box as well. And don’t think that checking the diverse box lets you off the hook as a publisher, either. 

 Sci-Fi & Scary supports diverse creators and we have made it our whole goal for 2020 to shine a light on the voices that don’t easily get that light. That’s one of the reasons why writing a negative review for a book from a diverse creator is so hard. I wanted to be able to shout from the rooftops about an amazing book from an extremely talented creator. Instead, I’m forced to write this. We tell people to give diverse voices a chance – to read outside their comfort zone – but this is the content that is easily available to them? Small presses are putting out some quality work by diverse writers. (Check out Zero Saints by Gabino Iglesias if you don’t believe me!) But small presses don’t get the attention that the major presses do. No one is getting any favors done for them if they pick up this book, fully willing to give someone a chance, and walk away with an unpleasant taste in their mouth.

I think Brown Girl Ghosted could have been good if Minti Das had had a team that worked with her like they should have worked with her. But they didn’t. And instead, people tune in to an awesome idea and tune out when they see execution that is so poor it makes a book reviewer cry, “Send it back to the editor and give it back to me when it’s actually finished!”
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This book was a little disappointing for me.  I had a hard time connecting with the main character as she is a little cruel and dismissive from the start. And the sudden shifts to Lukas’ perspective are jarring and largely unnecessary. 
Though I’m on board with the plot as a whole, and the Buffy the Vampire Slayer vibe, this could have been improved.
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When I first saw this book’s stunning cover, I knew I had to request it. I just couldn’t get over the beauty. And then, I went to Goodreads and saw the rating. When I tell you it’s low, it’s fucking LOW. But regardless, the synopsis sounded super cool and I’ve learned to not trust white reviewers’ opinions on ownvoices literature, so I let it slide.

At first, this was bad, but in a fun, trashy way. Then, it genuinely became a shitshow, which saddens me greatly because Mintie Das IS a good writer, I can tell. The humor in this was top-notch and the writing was very reminiscent of Scream Queens and I loved that.

However, the execution simply wasn’t good. A total shame, since the concept was super intriguing. Our main character, Violet, is an Indian girl who has descended from a line of warrior queens called the Aiedeo, who have magical powers and are basically superheroes who are dedicated to saving the world. But it was all so confusing? There were so many elements to this “culture” and none of them were explored enough. It was all shallow information with zero development.

As good as the writing is, it painfully read like a first draft. It was like when you get your earbuds all tangled up and you try really hard to untangle them but the knot is so tight you just give up and put them on like that. Except then you feel uncomfortable and very annoyed. The ideas didn’t translate well on the page, which overall left me feeling like too much was happening while also absolutely nothing at all? I don’t know, it was trippy. Plus, at times, there were also POV switches in the middle of a chapter that came out of nowhere. Chapter dividers were nonexistent here and I really hope that gets fixed in the finished version.

I like to think this debut is the epitome of being high. Disclaimer: I’ve never been high before. But this was a total fever dream; a bunch of ingredients thrown in a bowl to make a cake, except there’s too many eggs and very little flour, sjsjznshshshs.

And hear me out. Brown Girl Ghosted did manage to do something well. Its explorations of white privilege, rape culture, and internalized racism and misogyny were brilliantly done, and for that alone I’m really looking forward to see what Mintie Das writes next. Her voice is super unique, so you will catch me reading her future work. Something else I really enjoyed was Violet’s dynamic with her best friend, Meryl. Their relationship was beautiful, and I adored how they called each other out on their bullshit, no matter what.

But yeah, this just wasn’t great. If it had been edited more, I would highly recommend it to fans of Scream Queens, Undead Girl Gang, and Pretty Little Liars. There were also some really fucking gory scenes that were straight out of Final Destination, so that too. Unfortunately, I’d advise you to stay away from this book that is definitely not thrilling in the slightest. (How is this being marketed as a thriller, tbh? It’s a fantastical mystery, at most.) It attempted to be way too many things and it flopped. Horribly. *sigh*

Rating: 2 stars ⭐

Thank you to HMH Books for Young Readers for providing me an ARC of this book in exchange of an honest review!
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All Violet wants to do is blend in, at least much as a brown girl could in a small town.  She used to be able to see ghosts but those days are long past until a tragedy causes the ghosts to return. She thought she was done with ghosts but those ghosts have other plans for her. Those "ghosts" are spirits of her warrior ancestors, "The Aiedeo," whose heritage she has forsaken. They want her to solve the high school's queen bee's murder. The Aiedeo mythos is the most interesting thing about this book. The murder doesn't occur until almost halfway into the book. Before that readers see Violet interacting with her classmates and none of it is convincing. Almost every line contains a pop culture reference, most of which is outdated. No teens talk like the teens in this book. Das tries too hard to be contemporary and hip, thus she winds up failing. The book feels more natural and the characters more relatable once it becomes a paranormal mystery. Readers may also want to try other paranormal mysteries like The Diviners series by Libba Bray or The Body Finder series by Kimberly Derting.

Thank you NetGalley for providing the ARC for this book
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Brown Girl Ghosted is part ghost story, part murder mystery, and part feminist manifesto. The main character, Violet Choudhury feels like an outsider in her mostly white town and not fully connected to her Indian heritage, but she comes from a line of Assamese warrior queens with magical powers. Although she tries to deny this heritage in order to not feel like a freak and fit in better, she is forced to reckon with it when her former friend and the high school mean girl is humiliated via a leaked sex tape and murdered and she herself is turned into a bhoot, a lost soul. She must solve the mystery of the girl's death and put her to rest before she herself becomes a ghost forever.
This book was a bit difficult to get through in some parts because it felt like it centered too much on the high school petty drama aspect instead of developing the supernatural aspect. It felt overly ambitious in its purpose and bit lacking in the execution. However, I enjoyed the character development Violet underwent in taking ownership of her individuality and embracing her Assamese heritage as well as the searing critique of rape culture and misogyny, plus the way racism was called out.
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This story wasn't at all what I was expecting from the synopsis. I thought I was getting Teenage Ghost Whisperer, and instead it's a confused story about fighting spirits and stopping the end of the world. I was never 100% sure what was going on or why Violet was doing whatever she was doing, as her motivation seemed to swing wildly from scene to scene and the explanations just weren't making sense. There's a good story somewhere under here, but it's at least one round of edits away, sadly.
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This book was billed as "We Were Liars meets Riverdale" and I was like SIGN ME UP, but that is......not at all accurate?! I think something like Buffy the Vampire Slayer would be a better (if older) comp. But, fine, that's not the author's fault. What is the author's fault is the reallllllly weak character and worldbuilding. The premise--Violet Choudhury is called to be an aideo, an ancient order of warriors trained as guardians against demons & other supernatural baddies, but she rejects it because a) her mom died (or did she?) on aideo affairs and also b) she's one of very few kids of color in her small midwestern town so she doesn't want to do anything that would make her stand out...ok, sure, I can work with that premise! Honestly would LOVE to work with that premise, I'm always looking for more diverse urban fantasy-type books to read.

But then it's just like...we learn SO little about Violet beyond the fact that she doesn't want to stand out in a crowd. And we learn so little about the aiedeo itself--like at first I assumed it was tied to Indian culture but then the main other aiedeo figure we see is a rando white dude named Lukas (who has a really weak enemies-to-romance going with Violet). also--I think this was just because of an error in the ARC formatting that abruptly inserted Lukas's POV into the middle of chapters, but it was off-putting.

Also I searched for the term "aiedeo" to see if that was an actual tradition from India, and the ONLY matches I found for it are for this author's full name, Aideo Mintie Das. Honestly kind of a baller move, if confusing, since other terms used are from aspects of Indian culture/religion (BTW I know "Indian culture/religion" is like a really broad term) like "bhoot" (Sanskrit for "ghost") are used.

Anyway then the PLOT involves her having to solve the rape and murder of the school queen bee, and Violet learns Valuable Lessons about slutshaming and not running away from her ghosthunting duties. 

It's just kind of a mess and also wasn't even very entertaining (which, say what you will about Riverdale, it's ALWAYS entertaining.)
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This story tried to combine many different things but in a way that seemed forced. The biggest issue I had with this book is how inconsistent some of the scenes are. It’s almost as if it was just convenient to solve issue quickly as opposed to realistically. 
Not a favorite.
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Not even one star

I do not normally rate books that I DNF, especially when I do so this early on (I had to FORCE myself to get to 15%), but I would like for folks to consider this a warning not to waste their time. Also, I skimmed the rest to see if I should persist. NO. 

This novel needs so much editing. The flow of information is nearly impossible to follow. The main character sounds like a 40-year-old trying to talk like a teenager. The word choice, the interactions between characters, and so on are ridiculous. My mom might as well have run into the room while I was reading and yelled, "That's like totally tubular!" in 2019. I laughed repeatedly and inappropriately several times during the first couple of chapters due to the bizarre choices demonstrated throughout. 

Like many other reviewers (I HAD to know if others were having the same extreme reactions), I thought the premise sounded super interesting and was excited to read this. However, it is a complete disaster, and that is apparent from the jump. I truly dislike writing negative reviews because I know how much work and heart go into producing a text. That noted, I'm having a hard time understanding how this is making it to publication. I hope to see much more polished, organized, and focused work from this author in the future. 

There is NO chance I'll be recommending this to my students or colleagues.
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I wanted to like this book.  The characters had a lot of potential.  However the book was very frustrating to read.  In fact I kept forcing myself to read to about the 50% mark and gave up.  The book was almost  switching genres as it went along.  First the book focused on the interaction amoung the girls (mean girl attiturde).  Then it seemed to switch abrutly to more supernatural/fantasy elements.  Overall, did not enjoy this book.  

ARC provided by NetGalley
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The premise of this book had potential, but it never lived up to it. The writing was clunky, info dumps abound, and the world building vacillated wildly to suit the needs of the author in the moment.
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I gave up on this book at about 70% because I just couldn't force my way through it anymore. The author just kept changing the rules to suit the story and it was driving me nuts. Spirits can only affect the people who can see them. Wait! Spirits can affect the physical world. Nope! Spirits can go through everyone's personal belongings as if they were physically there, BUT the people don't notice because it's done in some alternate space? And, apparently because the author couldn't think of any other way to do it, boys are just dumb and always set their phone passwords to 1234. All of them. Every single one. Even her crush. 

The perspective would also shift on a dime with one character having about 2% of the story with no warning of when it was his perspective vs. hers. Even the main character's time and location would shift with no warning. Part of this may be an ARC Kindle formatting issue, but there were quite a few times that I had to scroll back and reread to try and figure out what the heck was going on.

This was just not well done. I strongly recommend avoiding this one.

ARC provided by NetGalley
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Violet feels like an outsider in her small Midwestern town. She's one of only a few people of color, and she is keeping a major secret--she's part of a supernatural warrior tribe. When the Queen Bee of the school is murdered, Violet must use her abilities to help solve the murder.

I really wanted to like this book. It had an interesting premise and I thought it would appeal to murder mystery fans. Unfortunately, the supernatural element seemed really forced and it didn't seem to truly work for the storyline. I'm not sure that many of my high schoolers will be able to overlook the supernatural parts to enjoy the mystery.
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Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for the free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. My thoughts are not affected by the free copy.

This is a really difficult one to talk about, because it does touch on a lot of things that are important and worth discussing. The main character brings up a lot of racial issues, sex issues, gender issues, nationality/heritage issues, and that's all really well done. But something about the writing style never quite clicked with me. The mystery was pretty lackluster, and the ending was just plain terrible. But I'll get to all that.

Let's first tackle the overall style and plot. A lot of it is infodumped by way of the main character explaining things. She does it in an odd way, too, making it feel like she's interrupting the natural flow of dialogue to give more exposition on things. And it never seems to stop. Even when it gets closer to the climax she's still explaining stuff. How about showing us rather than telling us? The plot is also really strange. I do like this different take on ghosts-- bhoots, as they're called here-- and the more vicious nature of them. I like that Violet was in actual danger because of them. But with all the exposition and set-up, the actual plot doesn't really happen until almost halfway into the book. 

Since this is a murder mystery, starting the plot at the halfway mark doesn't leave much time for setting up clues, suspects and so forth before the reveal. All of that on its own would be difficult to do without adding in the Aeideo and this bigger battle Violet is going through. It reminded me of Charmed and how demons were influencing people to kill each other. That set-up really rubbed me the wrong way here. Like all of this was just a test for Violet to embrace her powers. It puts a completely different perspective on the murderer, the victim, and the search for the killer. Again, it is different having someone forced into investigating a murder, but I can't say I liked it. Then there's the conclusion and the ending, which are both terrible. I didn't like having the demon influence being a factor into the murder, and I definitely did not like the cliffhanger ending that is obviously a segway into a sequel. That is not a way to end a book, guys. It's a way to finish a chapter.

All the pop culture references got on my nerves a little bit, too. Some of them are a little strange. What teenager would know who Hercule Poirot is? And since Violet is so extremely pop culture savvy, how is it she doesn't know about Kamila Khan, Miles Morales, John Stewart, America Chavez, Sam Wilson and so forth?

But as I said, there are a lot of good things in this, too. There's a big examination of slut-shaming and the gender divide on sexual activity, there's a great and infuriating scene where authorities argue over whether or not a girl has been raped and what to do about the boys who raped her. There are some great bits about small town politics and how who you are and your sphere of influence can affect the justice system's treatment of you. Violet's struggle with her heritage is something I think a lot of people will relate with.

So I'm torn. Obviously the ghost angle was a reason why I requested this, but I wish it didn't play as big a role as it did. I also wish the plot happened a little sooner and there was more focus on the mystery. I think there are some great things in here, and if there's more focus on that in future novels, then this will be a great series.
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