Sunday, March 11, 2012

Ghost Medicine by Andrew Smith

Ghost Medicine

Author: Andrew Smith

Publisher: Square Fish

4½ out of 5 stars

Smoke curls around you, forming a curtain of cloudy gray.  As the breeze clears it away, the stars come back into view, as do your friends sitting across the fire.  They’re smiling, and you feel the ends of your straight mouth picking up and curving into one as well.  This may be your last summer as boys.  This may even be your last summer together, but you know that what you have right now is worth it.  As you lean your head back against your hands and readjust your feet propped up against the rocks, a feeling of complete bliss envelops you.  You don’t know quite what you were searching for, but you know that this is it.

Troy Stotts, better known to his friends as Stottsy, has grown up most of his life riding horses, wearing loose pants, and having a mother.  That all changes after Troy’s mother dies.  Now Troy doesn’t know what to do with his life, and nothing is quite the same.  To escape from it all, Troy goes up into the mountains with his trusty steed, Reno.  Troy doesn’t know how long he has been living in an abandoned shack by the river, until Luz, his best friend and secret crush, comes to bring him back.  But Troy never thought he’d be coming back to these mountains so soon… and yet leave so much behind.

Things start to slip into a routine for Troy as he starts working at the Benavidez Ranch.  His days are filled with chores, yet he always has his friends by his side. Tom Buller, Luz Benavidez, and her little brother Gabe, are making this a summer to remember.  Nights spent around the bonfire, days full of riding in the sun, nothing could make this summer better.  But there are things that can make it worse.

The sheriff’s son, Chase Rutledge, has always been a constant bully in Troy and his friends’ lives.  After Chase steals the boys’ clothes while they’re swimming in the river, it’s not a game anymore.  The days of meaningless pranks are over, being replaced with threats and the chance that one day Chase will go too far.  Will the summer to remember turn into a summer that they just want to forget?  All is revealed, in Andrew Smith’s debut novel about three boys’ being forced to grow up in, Ghost Medicine!

Ghost Medicine captures the long days and endless nights of summer as Troy and his friends do all they can to spend it together.  With the dusty feel of living life on a ranch, Ghost Medicine hints at things that are much more than they first seem.  With lives lost, the blossoming of opportunities, and much more yet to come, this is a book that will transport you to a new scene for a while.  I suggest Ghost Medicine for older teens as it deals with some mature topics.

This was Andrew Smith’s first novel and after reading both The Marbury Lens and Stick by him as well, it was interesting to get to see how much his writing has evolved and grown over the years.  To me, Ghost Medicine felt like a toned down version of Andrew Smith, and it was as if I was just dipping my toe into the water of his work.  Elements that can be found in his other books, could be first seen in Ghost Medicine, such as how certain lines are repeated throughout the story, thrown in at the perfect moments.

I’ve noticed that in his most recent work, Stick, Andrew can get across the same feeling that he does in all his novels, but in much less words.  He can word things in such a way that I feel the same amount of impact in one sentence, rather than a paragraph.  After reading Ghost Medicine, it’s evident that with time he has become much better at showing rather than telling.  I can take away the same message from his books, and do so in much less time now than ever before.

I enjoyed Andrew’s descriptions immensely in Ghost Medicine, as I got a chance to feel as if I was right there riding on Reno, or in the mountains fishing in the river.  You never know exactly where Ghost Medicine takes place, except for the fact that it’s in the rural countryside.  Troy’s home became my getaway.  If there is a place like the one where Troy and his friends live, I hope I get to live there myself one day.  The lazy feel of living in the country, and the fact that every day was a new adventure would be a nice change from the daily grind of school.

The bonds of friends and brothers are always shown throughout Andrew’s books.  Troy, Tom, and Gabe weren’t just friends, they were like brothers.  They were extremely close, and always knew just what the other needed.  Out of all of Andrew’s characters, this trio of boys would receive the award for true friendship if there was one.  They understood each other on such a deep level, that they were closer to one another than they were to their own families even.  Over the course of the book, I came to know each of them just as well.

Ghost Medicine takes an ordinary summer, and turns it into an extraordinary one filled with love, regret, and the risk of never turning back.  A tragically real telling of a coming-of-age story, I could expect nothing less from Andrew Smith.  Join Troy, Tom, Gabe, and Luz as they choose their path and take off in different directions in, Ghost Medicine!

-This is T.B. with Another Book Back on the Shelf…
Until Next Time, Keep Reading!

My signed copy of Ghost Medicine!  Thank you so much Andrew!

Check out Andrew Smith's website at


  1. This may be my all time favorite book. Excellent review, Tessa!

  2. I think you must be Andrew Smith's biggest fan! Maybe I should start with this one and work my way up to Marbury Lens. Funny thing is the Marbury Lens is the only one I own! But Stick is totally on my list after your review of it. And now I really want to read this one. I don't think you ever write a review that I don't want to read the book you've reviewed! Another great job!!



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