Series: Sheets #2
Marjorie Glatt’s life hasn’t been the same ever since she discovered a group of ghosts hiding in her family’s laundromat. Wendell, who died young and now must wander Earth as a ghost with nothing more than a sheet for a body, soon became one of Marjorie’s only friends. But when Marjorie finally gets accepted by the popular kids at school, she begins to worry that if anyone learns about her secret ghost friends, she’ll be labeled as a freak who sees dead people. With Marjorie’s insistence on keeping Wendell’s ghost identity a secret from her new friends, Wendell begins to feel even more invisible than he already is.
Eliza Duncan feels invisible too. She’s an avid photographer, and her zealous interest in finding and photographing ghosts gets her labeled as “different” by all the other kids in school. Constantly feeling on the outside, Eliza begins to feel like a ghost herself. Marjorie must soon come to terms with the price she pays to be accepted by the popular kids. Is it worth losing her friend, Wendell? Is she partially to blame for the bullying Eliza endures?
Delicates is a worthy follow-up to Sheets, focusing on what it means to be a friend, and what it means to be complicit. This story intertwines the concerns of Marjorie, Wendell, and Eliza as they navigate the desire to fit in and to be valued. While Marjorie is congratulating herself on being accepted by the popular kids at school–even if they are not very nice to her–Wendell is upset that Majorie has stopped spending time with him, because she is afraid of looking weird. Meanwhile, bullied by others, Eliza is reaching out to Marjorie, but feeling rejected as Marjorie refuses to be seen with her, and even tries to stop Eliza’s budding friendship with Wendell. Their lives become entangled in a moving reflection on the costs of remaining silent when people are struggling.
The shift to a focus on Eliza and Wendell, as well as Marjorie, in this sequel is a daring one, but one that works spectacularly well. Sheets stars Marjorie as the protagonist, the character readers knew they should be rooting for. Delicates, however, reminds readers that Marjorie is the heroine only of her own story. For others, she is a side character, one who could help or harm them on the journey they themselves are taking. In a bold twist, Delicates suggests that while Marjorie likely sees herself as the hero, others could possibly see her as the villain.
Brenna Thummler uses the multiple perspectives of Delicates to great effect, showing how Marjorie believes that she is a good person, one who is struggling through life and therefore deserves sympathy. Marjorie’s self-concern, however, ultimately blinds her to the fact that just about everyone is struggling. She ignores Wendell’s pleas to hang out because, well, he’s dead and clearly her social life is more important then his. Worse, she believes that being neutral in the face of bullying absolves her of guilt. But Eliza is there to remind Majorie that witnessing something wrong and doing nothing to stop it makes her a bully, too.
In many ways, Delicates is a difficult read. Things become quite bleak for the characters, to the point that they begin to feel that there is no escape. Ultimately, however, it ends on a note of hope, as well as with a call to action. Every moment is a good moment to remember to be kind. And Delicates is a wonderful and moving read with just that reminder.