by David Levithan
YA fiction. 167 pp.
Marly's Ghost is a Valentine's story based on Dickens's A Christmas Carol. Actually, it's more than just a retelling. It is what Levithan refers to as a remix:
This is very much a remix novel. While I've endeavored to create my own music, I've also sampled greatly from the story's original source. . . .
I decided to reread Dickens's original. I hadn't read it since ninth grade or so, and I quickly realized that I'd let all of the other versions (from Scrooged to Scrooge McDuck) block out what Dickens really wrote. . . .
For the actual writing, I sat with a copy of A Christmas Carol on my lap and went through it paragraph by paragraph, line by line, "translating" the original story into my new story, taking the original tune and turning it into a remix. Some lines stayed verbatim. Others twisted and turned into new meanings. Some of the scenes in the original novel were cut, but most of them stayed in some way.
Once I turned the last page of A Christmas Carol and wrote the last line of my first draft, I put the original away. The more I revised and remixed, the more the story and music became my own. But Dickens is still there underneath every word--sometimes on the surface, sometimes deep below.
The book is good. Quite good. As a reader, you have the advantage of knowing the basic premise for the story, so you're reading to discover how Levithan remixes it. You are greeted with those familiar lines--"Marly was dead, to begin with." Like Dickens, Levithan draws you into Ben's misery and lost humanity. In this novel, Ben's girlfriend, Marly, died of cancer. Following her loss, he has closed his heart to everyone, even to his best friend, Fred, who continues to do everything he can to reach out to Ben.
I love the language of the book. I credit this to Levithan as I'm not a huge fan of Dickens's writing, in general. But I love Levithan's writing, so I may be biased.
In all, I would have to say this is my favorite retelling of A Christmas Carol. And it's a quick read. All good things.