The Ghosts Of Rose Hill by R.M. Romero Review

The Ghosts Of Rose Hill by R.M. Romero

Publisher: Peachtree Teen

Release Date: May 10, 2022

Pages: 452

Available through Bookshop & The Book Depository

Cover artist: Isabel Ibañez

Summary: Magic will burn you up. Sent to stay with her aunt in Prague and witness the humble life of an artist, Ilana Lopez—a biracial Jewish girl—finds herself torn between her dream of becoming a violinist and her immigrant parents’ desire for her to pursue a more stable career. When she discovers a forgotten Jewish cemetery behind her aunt’s cottage, she meets the ghost of a kindhearted boy named Benjamin, who died over a century ago. As Ilana restores Benjamin’s grave, he introduces her to the enchanted side of Prague, where ghosts walk the streets and their kisses have warmth. But Benjamin isn’t the only one interested in Ilana. Rudolph Wassermann, a man with no shadow, has become fascinated with her and the music she plays. He offers to share his magic, so Ilana can be with Benjamin and pursue her passion for violin. But after Ilana discovers the truth about Wassermann and how Benjamin became bound to the city, she resolves to save the boy she loves, even if it means losing him—forever.

My Rating: ★★★★☆

My Thoughts: The Ghosts Of Rose Hill reads like a timeless folktale, stirring such enduring themes about passion to heritage, even history. Ilana dreams of pursuing her dream of becoming a violinist and spends the summer in Prague, where she meets a kindhearted ghost boy and uncovers its magic in ways she never expected. This was an elegantly composed novel in verse that’s not only whimsical but contemporary in its coming-of-age story!

There’s books that sometimes I know going in, leave much to rediscover and decipher upon a reread. Friends, let me tell you I had no idea that it would be this book! Being written in verse, there’s always that assumption you can get the meaning out of the stanzas and lines upon that initial reading but as I began crafting this review and rereading passages, it left me thinking even more about different pieces this story contained to tell both a contemporary and magical tale wrapped in one.

Ilana carries a deep love of music, especially as a violinist who carries grand dreams of continuing to play after high school and hopefully as a career. However her parents (understandably) want her to consider a more practical, stable career as she enters her last year. So for the summer, they decide to send her to stay with her Aunt Žofie in Prague (who is a painter herself). Sent without her music, torn away from the one thing she loves, she takes time to reconnect with her heritage, as biracial Jewish Latina girl, and explores the city. From there, she uncovers a forgotten cemetery behind her aunt’s rose cottage and meets a ghost boy named Benjamin! As the two forge a strong bond, together, they unearth the magical and underlying history of Prague’s streets. However, along the way Ilana meets Rudolf Wasserman, a man with no shadow, whose intrigued by Ilana’s passion for the violin which adds a layer of mystery to this magical realism folktale.

Using the style of verse, I think, perfectly captured the profound emotions such as Ilana’s passion for the violin, the tragic Jewish history of the past century but also the beauty of its culture, folklore as well as traditions. The style also allows the reader to propel through the story with specific imagery that blends together the with the sights and culture of Prague. The use of presenting the novel in verse also heightened the themes of love, passion, death that has its own unique thread throughout the book, while balancing the present and past with such care.

I loved how the author explored both Ilana’s Cuban heritage through her mother and those small moments that really stick out to you from within the text. However, its wonderful seeing that balance given to both her Latin-American heritage in the beginning to subsequently focus on her Jewish and father’s eastern European heritage while she’s in Prague.

Ilana is assured and absolute in her skills as a violin player and the bright future she sees ahead as a musician. For teens that’s such an important message to read about, especially as Ilana finds herself unable to let go of her dedication to playing! However, with her dreams suppressed by her family to understandably consider a more stable job, she can’t seem to evade her passion as the isolated summer in Prague compels her to continue nurturing her skills. However another major plot thread of the novel is the time she spends restoring a forgotten Jewish cemetery, allowing her to connect with her family’s heritage (specifically that of her mother’s side, whose ancestors were Jewish). Reading this book it made me realize we need more sweet ghost bois in YA, my heart ached for Ilana & Benjamin’s friendship / relationship because she knows it would never last but there’s that feeling of love and heartbreak at the same time!!

As she befriends him and slowly learns about his past, it was one of the more delicate, sweetly flourishing parts of the story amid the haunting, more intense threads of the plot.

Surprisingly with Romero’s novel, I genuinely want to avoid delving into more specifics of the plot because the experience of reading & immersing myself in this novel is truly something I’d love for readers to capture when they pick up this novel as well. I will say though, as I reached the remaining pages, there was a sense that much more of Ilana and Benjamin’s relationship could have given more opportunity to see additional interactions or moments between them (in order to further develop their beautiful friendship initially). There’s also the thought that there was more to plot I wanted more to delve into and explore.

Also delving into slight a slight spoiler here, but throughout the novel the character of Rudolph Wasserman, he is the sort of antagonist that builds with the plot. As Ilana confides in him more with her violinist skills, she sees him as kindred spirit of sorts. However, the straight-forward antagonist was for me, a weaker part of the story for me because they become such transparent elements to the story, not really leaving more much to discover about them. Learning about his true nature, it’s quite obvious he has not so genuine intentions. However, I can also see how the fairytale-like antagonist archetype allows for us the reader to focus more on the intricate, profound focus on diaspora, culture, folklore and depth of history as it intertwines with coming-of-age themes as well, in addition to that of Ilana & Benjamin’s intertwined stories.

Next I wanted to share a quote (while there were so many I enjoyed) this one stuck out to me throughout the entire story and I think it leaves lots to think about for readers whose family’s have immigrated due to difficult circumstances and find themselves reconnecting with their heritage:

“Maybe / my entire family is still trying to escape history. (But if that’s true, / what am I doing here, / drowning in it?)” (36).

With every page though, I was lost in Romero’s prose, the well executed themes and compelling main characters from Ilana, Benjamin to Ilana’s aunt, in addition to the atmosphere and detail the author brings to the summer setting of Prague. Upon a reread, I wouldn’t be surprised if it leaves me even more to discover in the future.

The Ghosts Of Rose Hill is an atmospheric novel in verse that delves into history, folklore, heritage and coming of age told through such lyrical writing. Ilana’s story is full of mystery, romance, passion for her craft, that comes together to present a magical realism folktale that’s incredibly unique and heartfelt!

6 thoughts on “The Ghosts Of Rose Hill by R.M. Romero Review

  1. Your review is GORGEOUS AND I ABSOLUTELY LOVE IT!!! plus,, the book sounds AMAZING?!!! AND THE COVER IS PERFECTION OKAY and DID YOU MENTION SOFT GHOSTS + discovering your heritage + a girl who’s passionate about music????? AND THERE’S MAGIC???? I NEED THIS THANK YOUUU

    Liked by 1 person

    1. thank you for reading Anoushka & for the comment! After reading this I need MORE soft ghost bois!! 🥺💖 Hope my review has convinced you to check it out, I thought the writing/story were SO beautiful!! + yes the cover, is equally stunning!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. OOOH that cover is STUNNING, I’m convinced to read this book solely on that factor itself 🤣🤣
    Also I completely ADORED your review- it was lovely to read!!💗💗💗
    Cant wait to read this!!

    Liked by 1 person

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