Susie Salmon is already dead by the time we meet her. From her new home in Heaven she recounts the final days of her life, taking us back to 1973 and helping us understand how she was murdered. Using her docile teenage voice, she tells us what she's going through in the afterlife in order to fit in. But first she must let go of the past.
Susie watches events in the living world play out after her death, observing her family as they each deal with grief in their own way: her father is desperate to find her killer as time wears on; her mother is a shell of her former self; her brother builds a fort in her honor; and Susie's sister grows up to become the only one aware of the real killer.
Susie struggles as she tries to reach out to her family, eventually realizing that all she can do is watch. She can do nothing to comfort them in their time of need, nor can she warn her sister that her suspicions about the man who killed her are correct. With the help of ghostly "guides," Susie slowly learns to embrace the afterlife.
In The Lovely Bones Alice Sebold tells a touching story of family, love, and loss, while suspense is ever present. This book is a great example of life—and afterlife—as seen through the eyes of a ghost.
Breathe by Cliff McNish (261 pages; Carolrhoda, 2006)
After his father's death, Jack and his mother move into an old house. Jack still feels a connection to him, and when he runs his hands over his father's belongings he can somehow sense his presence. But Jack also senses the presence of something else in the old house he's moved into with his mom. On their first day he sees faces in the windows—is his mind playing tricks on him, or is his new house haunted?
Jack later discovers that the house is inhabited by four ghost children: Oliver, Ann, Charlie, and Gwyneth. They befriend him, but they're not alone—Jack also feels the presence of the Ghost Mother.
When he notices another spirit out by the garden he gets closer to the truth behind the Ghost Mother, who's friendly at first, but the ghost children try to warn him that she's not what she seems. She has plans for Jack, the same plans she had for the other children, setting up the breathless conclusion of Cliff McNish's riveting ghost story.
Jane-Emily by Patricia Clapp (160 pages; Lothrop, Lee & Shepard, 1969)
Jane has recently become an orphan, and is sent to live with her grandmother, Mrs. Canfield, on her estate. She's accompanied by Louisa, her 18-year-old aunt; both are in awe of the grandmother's mansion. Mrs. Canfield enjoys the company of the girls, and the girls enjoy her as well. Louisa even attracts the interest of a potential beau in the area.
One day Jane notices a gazing ball in the garden behind the house, but the reflection she sees staring back at her isn't her own. She begins to ask questions about her aunt Emily, one of her grandmother's daughters, who died at the age of 12. Beautiful and clever yet strong-willed and spoiled, Emily was anything but an angel.
Louisa begins to suspect that Jane feels Emily's presence on the grounds of the estate. What exactly could Emily want from the young girl? Looking out from her window one evening, Louisa notices a glow coming from the garden. It's the gazing ball, and Jane is standing in front of it. Louisa then begins to question what Emily wants from her niece, and to what lengths she'll go to in order to possess her.
Ghostgirl by Tonya Hurley (336 pages; Little, Brown and Company, 2008; book one in the "Ghostgirl" series)
Charlotte Usher is the kind of girl who always blends into a crowd. In fact she might as well be invisible. One day she chokes on a gummy bear right after talking to her high school crush, and suddenly she is invisible.
But being a ghost isn’t all it's cracked up to be. Charlotte discovers that she has to attend "dead ed" classes with a bunch of other ghost kids. (Who would've thought you have to go to school even after you die?) When they're not in class the ghost kids stay in a dormitory—basically, it's an old house in town—so you could say they have their own little clique.
Despite the new obstacles she faces, Charlotte doesn’t give up her goal of becoming popular. The way she sees it, she just has to overcome one handicap and she'll be on her way. Okay, so the handicap is that she’s dead, but Charlotte won’t let a silly little thing like that stop her!
"Now I lay me down to sleep. I pray the Lord my soul to keep," she prays. "And if I should die before I awake, I pray the popular attend my wake." Read the first book in Tonya Hurley's series to find out if Charlotte's prayer comes true.