The Ghost Portal by Cheryl J. Carvajal
When Joshua Forester’s mother dies of cancer, his entire life is upended. His abusive father wants nothing to do with him. An uncle he never knew existed suddenly appears and whisks him away to another across the country. Joshua is left with more questions than answers when he finds himself enrolled at a private boarding school where his uncle is dean.
And this private school is no place for rest and healing after his mother’s death. He has mandatory church services to attend, difficult classes, teenage cliques to avoid, and nearly nothing to his name after leaving all of his possessions behind. If having a loaded academic schedule wasn’t enough stress, Joshua is forced to try out for the football team even though he has never played before. But none of this is truly as frightening as Joshua’s gifts. He was able to see the cancer in his mother long before the doctors were able to diagnose her. He can read minds and has prophetic dreams. All of this is made even more dangerous when a dark force pulls Joshua towards a portal to the ghost world and a deadly demon that guards the entrance.
Poor Joshua. This kid just can’t catch a break throughout the entire book. His father is abusive, his mother dies of a horrible illness and then he’s kidnapped by an uncle he’s never met. I spent much of the book hoping that the uncle would come to some horrible end-he was such an irritating character and frustrating to read. He knows that Joshua has special powers and refuses to give him any answers to his questions. Multiple times Ian, the uncle, uses his own power/ability to make Joshua feel drugged and sleepy so he’ll stop trying to figure out why he can read minds. Ian also provides zero support for his grieving nephew. He enrolls him at the boarding school where he is the Dean but doesn’t let him bring anything with him. With almost no wardrobe, school supplies, or money, Joshua is just supposed to be grateful that he wasn’t left with his father. The kids at his new boarding school are stuck up and his uncle overloads his class schedule leaving Joshua little time to himself or to complete his schoolwork.
But Joshua is able to make a few friends. He’s able to forge a bond with the less than stellar players on the football team and together they help Joshua cope with his increasingly scary nightmares and weird ability to instantly read Latin. Joshua also finds a friend in Jane Evans, a girl from school who can also read minds like Joshua. She also has a very handy ability to disappear when she doesn’t want to be seen. I really liked how the friendships were written-the kids are understanding of each other’s differences but also expect one another to hold up their end of the relationship.
I wish there had been more information on the portal and how Ian and his school played a part in it. There are still a lot of questions that went unanswered. I’m not a fan of how the “local tribe” was introduced and used at the end-it felt too convenient.
Overall, it was a good read. The story flowed well and the characters were well developed. Joshua was very convincing as the hurt and angsty teenager. I hope it’s the beginning of a series and we can find out more about the shadowy groups behind the portal and how or why Joshua and his family have the gifts they do.
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