book report #11: letting boys be boys

smellthetestosterone Wow.

Just finished Ghost Medicine, by Andrew Smith.

Did I mention, “Wow” ?

This is YA Guylit for manly men.  As the cover promises, the story is about friends, enemies, heroes and blood. But it’s…so…mindful.  It’s downright…now don’t take this the wrong way…lyrical.

Wait!  Come back here!  I didn’t say it was sappy.  Or girly.

It’s thoughtful.  Andrew Smith takes his time, lets the story unspool at a steady pace.  Lulls you into a feeling of security that ends up being false.

Smith provides the type of detail that proves he knows how to handle horses, dig post holes, handle a gun.  The characters chew tobacco, experiment with alcohol.

They are downright naughty.

But naughty doesn’t mean bad.  Smith portrays the passage to manhood without apology.  No one has to learn a politically correct lesson, though there are plenty of lessons learned.  I hate to call this book a “coming of age novel”.   That’s a flat description of this rich, immersive story.

I’ve got to admit that having read Smith’s breezy blog, I was surprised by the voice.    It took several pages for me to settle into the rhythm of the book, trust the author to take me where I needed to go.  Glad I did, because the setting became so real to me, I could swear I’d visited the Benavidez spread myself.  The pace of the book matches the narrator, Troy Stotts, a boy whose life revolves around ranching.  And you can’t hurry those things.  Horses.  Guns.  Hard, physical labor.

Troy isn’t a scholar, but he’s a deep thinker.  And we get to share his thoughts as he endures incredible trials that make him into a man.

Ghost Medicine teems with interesting characters.  The powerful rancher, who doesn’t appreciate the strength in his own son.  The widowed teacher, who just wants to hide.  The lazy sheriff.  Good people.  Bad people.  Ambivalent people.  Every character seems fresh, every bit of dialogue rings true.

Just found out that Ghost Medicine has been picked as one of  the ALA’s Best Books for Young Adults of 2009.

Really not surprised.

Guys, I’m talking to you.  There’s probably stuff in here your moms don’t like.

But I bet your dads do.


About Lisha Cauthen

Lisha Cauthen writes YA novels for guys that girls like to read too.

Posted on January 30, 2009, in book report, childrens' literature and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Thank you so much for those kind remarks. I’ll be honest and say that there have been so many surprises in this endeavor — becoming a first-time novelist. It’s a lot tougher than I’d imagined, waiting to see if your book will find its way into the hands of readers… especially in light of the depth of the talent among established YA authors. Who would honestly have time or shelf space for someone they’d never heard of?

    I can’t even begin to tell you how grateful I am for my first readers… and all the great email messages I’ve received from people from all over the country. Of course, it’s a special honor to be recognized by the ALA… and have you seen the company I’m in on that list?

    I am blown away.

    Thank you Lisha!


  1. Pingback: Author Interview: Andrew Smith | Scrub-a-Dub-Tub, a Reading Tub Blog

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