Top critical review
Clever story, but flawed
Reviewed in the United States on March 22, 2018
Until I got to the end of this book, I would have given this book four stars. The story of a seventh-grade outcast who is befriended (or co-opted, really) by the ghost of a sixteenth-century teen boy who lives in his cell phone has all of Gordon Korman's trademark humor. It's a clever take on the time-travel genre in which the historic figure comes into the present day, instead of the modern-day child going back into the past. The plot revolves around the Shakespearean tragedy, Romeo and Juliet, and the interplay between ancient and contemporary language is a hoot.
Without revealing the plot, I can only say that in the last few pages of the book, the main character, Cooper, engages in criminal activity, and it's not just spray-painting graffiti or egging someone's house. But don't worry... it's okay, because his target is an even bigger crook! I'm sorry, but in my morality plays, two wrongs don't make a right. Yes, I know it's just a story, but there it is. It bothered me. That it's done in the name of friendship, because Cooper is so grateful to have a friend, even if only a ghost, made it even worse. Is that what friendship requires?
Beyond that, the tired plot of the girl who falls for the bully (Cooper's nemesis) irritated me. Brock is drawn so over-the-top as a repulsive Neanderthal that it's insulting to have the spirited, independent female character, Jolie, fall for him. To drill down even further, the anachronisms in the book work against the current-day setting. Kids don't change into gym clothes anymore, and climbing ropes were replaced long ago by climbing walls. And spitballs aren't a thing anymore... social media is where bullying happens these days, out of sight of the adults. I just couldn't get past all these points to really enjoy the story, clever though it is.