August 16, 2015

(Netgalley) ARC Review: Ghostboy, Chameleon, and the Duke of Graffiti by Olivia Wildenstein

Ghostboy, Chameleon & the Duke of GraffitiGhostboy, Chameleon & the Duke of Graffiti by Olivia Wildenstein
Rating: /5

*I received digital ARC of this book from the publisher through Netgalley*

Pub. Date: April 16th, 2015

Get a copy here!

This is the book that I doubt I would enjoy because of the childlike title yet something I would pick up anyway because of the unique title. After I read the brief description available on Netgalley, I became more curious as I couldn’t make out where the title clicked with the story. Ghostboy, Chameleon, and the Duke of Graffiti sounds exactly like a fantasy book for me. While I wasn’t right about it, I wasn’t totally wrong either. That is the title of a fantasy book; the one that exists inside this contemporary book.

The next thing that picked up my interest ―after the cover― was the perspective being used in this book. Now that I think about it, I’ve never read a book where the story is told solely from the male lead’s perspective. I was a little worried that it wouldn’t sound good or came out unnatural as the author is female but she actually did a really good job ‘voicing’ teenage boy to deliver the plot.

The story began with a scene where Duke was brought to principal’s office after his attempt to spread out his creativity all the way to principal’s car (yes, he’s the graffiti boy on the title). Duke’s not a bad student, really. He did it as a challenge to join some exclusive club called Alphas which two of his best friends were already in. Duke’s ended up grounded and had a new side role at school as janitor, both for a month. While being in this messed up situation that Duke met Cora, the Goth girl slash principal’s daughter. It’s not that he never met her before. He did know her; they just never really talked to each other until this time. Guess detention kind of opened up his world to more than just the basketball team, popular cheerleaders, and the Alphas.

I have to admit that the first few chapters of this book are sort of plain and uneventful. Maybe it’s the short-length scenes, or the unsmooth transitions between each scene, or the fact that at first the scenes seemed too focused on mundane things of Duke’s life rather than picking up the plot forward. Duke went on with his janitor assignments, occasionally ran into Cora, little banter happened, him trying to brush his weird feeling for the Goth girl by dating another girl, negotiating with his parents to let him go out, and hanging out with friends who encouraged him to keep his spirit joining the Alphas.

It went on like that even though I did highlight some funny scenes throughout the book. It felt so long when I realized I was still on the first quarter of the book that the first twist finally came. I couldn’t remember on which chapter exactly that I began to fully enjoy the story. Maybe it was after the first twist came up or much later when Duke finally met someone who changed so much of his life. Meeting an eight years old Jaime, gave Duke’s more useful thing to do other than worrying about school boy’s cliché things: popularity at school, basketball, girls, or joining some secret club. Discovering the little boy’s big secret, Duke felt something shift inside him, something where he felt more thankful for the life he had, for the complete family he got, something that pushed him to do the right thing in his life.

Duke’s character represents everything a good teenage boy is like. He thinks and acts as naturally as most boys his age but I do love that he’s such a loving kid to his family. I love Duke’s relationship with his parents and his grandma. Actually Duke’s family is really something; it looks like so much fun to hang out with them and everything they do is really comical. I lost count on how many times I laughed whenever their scenes were up. Even scene as worrying as Duke’s sudden appendix attack was so darn funny for me.

And then there’s Cora who isn’t as lucky as Duke’s in family department. With incomplete parents and little brother who already had to face a big battle with cancer at eight, Cora had her own issue that shaped her into a girl with cold demeanor and thick make-up. After several encounters with Cora, Duke felt so taken aback with his weird feeling for the girl who’s so different than his usual type. Perhaps it’s the cold-shoulders that Cora kept throwing at him, or her charcoal-like make-upped eyes, but Duke felt the urge to unravel whatever she hid behind the mask. I like that it’s not exactly an insta-love happening between them. They resented each other from the start yet in the end they shared equal affection for the same person. Jaime who was no other than Cora’s little brother started to build a tight bond with Duke when he decided to write him a story, trying to give him adventure he probably would never get. Their relationship seemed casual at first but slowly it tightened and soon they realized that they never wanted to be separated from each other. Duke never knew that Jaime would be more than just his writing-buddy and he never knew that Jaime would be the very person that brought him and Cora closer than ever. The three of them formed a unique group as they went on a mission to cross each point from Jaime’s bucket list.

As much as I love the romance in this book, I love Duke’s relationship with Jaime more. I guess it’s after Duke started to hang out more with Jaime that I started to really enjoy the story ―including the one Duke and Jaime wrote together.

That’s when this book started to give me so much ‘feels’.

I shed my first tear on 80% mark. And that’s also the beginning of every tear I shed again and again all the way to the last page. When I first read the book I know exactly just how it would end up eventually. But I guess Ms. Wildenstein tried to relay this to us from the start, that no matter how it ends, it’s the story that matters the most. See the words etched on the cover?
Some endings are inevitable, but so are the stories.
She tried to remind us again through Jaime’s words:
“Just because you know the ending doesn’t mean you shouldn’t read it.”
I could so relate to this. Growing up I always hold on the process-based thinking system. I am taught not to worry so much about the result as what much more important is the process. The ending was one painful experience for each character yet no one wanted to change a thing if it meant replacing the togetherness, unforgettable moments, and the tight bond had been formed between them. There was this red thread between the story of this book and the one written by the characters. It’s really beautiful and poignant.

Ghostboy, Chameleon, and the Duke of Graffiti is the book about finding unexpected love and losing unexpected friend in unexpected time and place. Duke’s character teaches us that you don’t need to be the most popular kid at school or be in some fancy exclusive club to be able to do amazing thing and give people happiness. This book might feel ordinary for me at first but it felt so good to discover what a ride it took me to the last page. It’s just so many feeling all blended into one. And what an ending to wrap them up with… :)

I strongly recommend this book for everyone who wants to experience what I said above. Ms. Wildenstein chose two cliché themes of YA novel ―terminal illness and story-writing― and put them together into an astonishing story that many people would find it hard to put it down. What a stellar debut novel!

Love, read, and review,
Cynthia D.


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