Monday, February 7, 2011

The Ghost and the Goth by Stacey Kade--iMovie

Bibliography: Kade, S. (2010). The ghost and the goth. New York, NY: Hyperion.

Summary: The Ghost: It’s not my fault that I was born with it all—-good looks, silky blond hair, and a keen sense of what everyone else should not be wearing. My life isn’t perfect, though, especially since I died. Run over by a bus of band geeks—-could there be a worse fate? As it turns out, yes—-I’m starting to disappear, flickering in and out of existence. To top it off, the only person who can see or hear me is Will Killian, TOTAL loser boy, and he refuses to help!

I need to get control of my afterlife, and fast, before I’m dead AND gone for good. If I can get Will to talk to me, I might have a chance. But that means trusting him with my secrets...and I don’t trust anyone, living or dead.

The Goth: My mom thinks I’m crazy. My shrink wants to lock me up. Basically, my life sucks. And that was before the homecoming queen started haunting me. Alona Dare was a pain when she was alive; dead, she’s even worse.

Yeah, I can see, hear, and touch ghosts. With just a few weeks of school left, all I want to do is graduate and get out of here, find some place with less spiritual interference. But with a dead cheerleader who won’t leave me alone, and a violent new ghost who wants me dead...I’m screwed.

Alona and I might be able to help each other...if we can stop hating each other long enough to try.

Yeah, right (Hyperion).

Tool: iMovie

iMovie is not a Web 2.0 tool, but I felt it deserved a post because so many educators are using it (and its PC equivalent, Windows Media Player) both in and out of the classroom. The book trailer for The Ghost and the Goth began in an educator workshop, "Becoming Steven Spielberg...," taught by EISD instructional technology coordinator Carl Hooker (Follow him on Twitter @mrhooker). The workshop utilized the movie-making software Adobe Premiere Elements, and when I tried to open my project later in Adobe Premiere Pro, I found that transferring it from one program to another had dismantled it. My video and audio clips were there, but my complete book trailer had been disassembled.

Undeterred, I took the carnage that had been my project and decided to teach myself how to use iMovie. After the complicated Adobe programs, learning iMovie was like going to Hogwarts--magical.

While users can make movies from their own video clips, of course, I decided, in the spirit of both Web 2.0 collaboration and true fan-made trailers, to find all of my material online. All of the video clips are edited from other posts on YouTube, and nearly all of the audio (AFI's "Miss Murder" excepted) is available on various creative commons sites (See Freeplay Music as an example). Making this book trailer has been the most fun, albeit the most time-consuming, project I have made for stories from the cloud, and I highly recommend the above Apple how-to site for people with questions about iMovie. Just make sure that your video clips are converted to MPEG format before you begin your project. I recommend Media Converter, a free online video and audio converter that can convert files uploaded from your computer or imported directly from YouTube, Facebook, etc.

Review: Maintaining a narrative with two speakers is tricky--the reader may simply skim through a weak account to get to the next--but Stacey Kade performs the job well with her debut novel, The Ghost and the Goth. Both Alona's and Will's perspectives advance the main storyline while maintaining a separate plot unique to each character. Kade also sets up each character's story differently so as to retain readers' interest: Will's family secret, for example, is revealed almost immediately, while Alona's remains a mystery until almost the last chapter. This distinctness emphasizes the dichotomy between the characters: the goth lets his friends (and the audience) in, while even as a ghost, the homecoming queen is hesitant to reveal anything that conflicts with her public image. Watching such classic stereotypes--although, of course, Will and Alona are more than that--attempt to overcome their differences is hilarious.

Kade's paranormal universe has a few minor weak points--Alona must perform acts of kindness in order to keep from disappearing, for example--but is overall convincing and sticks to the standard lore. (Note to self: stay away from Ouija boards!) The mystery of who the violent, new ghost is and why he or she is after Will stays tight, and the fast-paced climax is both disturbing and cathartic. Despite the quirky concept and cute cover, the novel deals with some mature topics, such as death, suicide, alcoholism, and parental abuse. The themes of accepting others for who they are and telling the truth about yourself are universal, however, and this book should hit home for a wide range of readers. Because of its realistic issues, it may even be a good gateway book for enticing readers to get out of the paranormal romance rut and explore other genres. Grades 8+.

(After unwisely consulting the Ouija board, the spirits have informed me that the sequel, Queen of the Dead, is due out in June.)

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