The Ghosts of Rose Hill

Peachtree. May 2022. 384p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781682633380.
Gr 9 Up–Ilana Lopez is biracial Jewish Latina, born and raised in Miami by immigrant parents. Ilana’s passion is music and playing her violin. This is crushing to her parents, who do not want her to struggle as they did. Attempting to snap her out of it, they take away her violin for the summer and send her to stay with her dad’s sister, Aunt Žofie, in Prague. Aunt Žofie lives at Rose Cottage on Rose Hill. Arriving in Prague, Ilana discovers a neglected cemetery on her aunt’s property. She begins to spend time clearing and maintaining the matzevots (tombstones), and is met with the ghost of Benjamin, a teen who died a century ago. They form a bond, and with Benjamin, Ilana discovers the magic and the history of Prague, of all those forgotten. While facing the horrors and monsters of the past of her people in Europe, and in feeling sadness, Ilana confronts her own demons and struggles. Romero’s novel is beautifully written in heartbreaking verse. The blending themes of Jewish heritage, fairy tales, romance, monsters, and ghosts results in a rewarding read. Romero’s writing seeps into the deepest part of the reader, providing much to think about in regards to love and death, passion and heartbreak. Broken down into four movements (a nod to classical music composition, no doubt), the novel’s vibrant prose produces vivid imagery.
VERDICT A modern folktale, a love letter to the diaspora, and a unique novel-in-verse, this work is recommended for all teen collections.

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