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Steinbeck's Ghost 11/21/11
Steinbeck's Ghost by Lewis Buzbee is a tween urban fantasy about a boy, Travis, who isn't happy in the new subdivision. He's a Steinbeck fan and wants to help save the Salinas public library from being closed due to budget cuts. As he works on a plan he begins to be visited by ghosts of Steinbeck's stories and quite possibly the author himself. They seem to be telling him that the answers to his problems are tucked away in the landscapes that inspired Steinbeck.
There were so many reasons I should have liked this book. I live in the Bay Area and visit Salinas a couple times a year. I'm also a fan of Steinbeck. I'm a library science student and a lover of ghost stories. Finally, I absolutely adored Buzbee's memoir The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop.
Unfortunately the pieces didn't come together for me. Travis doesn't come of as a very likable protagonist. The move to the new tract home is a plot device to give Travis something to whine about. And whine he does.
The focus of the book should have been the ghosts of Salinas fiction and fact coming together to save the Salina's library. I'm sure that's what happened eventually but the plot gets bogged down first with Travis's unhappiness and then with lengthy discussions of the books he's reading. The name dropping though isn't done as part of plot. Instead these passages feel like book reports inserted for filler.
I ended up not finishing the book. What should have been a fun read ended up being a chore and a bore.