Contemporary, Fiction, Thriller

Ghosts of Harvard by Francesca Serritella

Originally I had planned to post my review of Elizabeth Wein’s latest book, Enigma Game, but I found out on Wednesday that instead of being published on Tuesday as planned, it’s now been pushed back until November. So after wandering around my library (well, really spinning in circles looking at the shelves while standing in the middle of the room), I racked my brain to think of a substitute book. Enter, Ghosts of Harvard.


From the Publisher Marketing:
Cadence Archer arrives on Harvard’s campus desperate to understand why her brother, Eric, a genius who developed paranoid schizophrenia took his own life there the year before. Losing Eric has left a black hole in Cady’s life, and while her decision to follow in her brother’s footsteps threatens to break her family apart, she is haunted by questions of what she might have missed. And there’s only one place to find answers.

As Cady struggles under the enormous pressure at Harvard, she investigates her brother’s final year, armed only with a blue notebook of Eric’s cryptic scribblings. She knew he had been struggling with paranoia, delusions, and illusory enemies—but what tipped him over the edge? Voices fill her head, seemingly belonging to three ghosts who passed through the university in life, or death, and whose voices, dreams, and terrors still echo the halls. Among them is a person whose name has been buried for centuries, and another whose name mankind will never forget.

Does she share Eric’s illness, or is she tapping into something else? Cady doesn’t know how or why these ghosts are contacting her, but as she is drawn deeper into their worlds, she believes they’re moving her closer to the truth about Eric, even as keeping them secret isolates her further. Will listening to these voices lead her to the one voice she craves—her brother’s—or will she follow them down a path to her own destruction?


There is no reason it should have taken me as long as it did to think of Ghosts of Harvard as a substitute for Enigma Game today – it’s literally the only book I’ve been dealing with for the last week for work because Francesca is one of our local authors and every year we do a massive event and preorder campaign for her essay collections with her mother, Lisa Scottoline. Months ago, when we first found out at the store that Random House was publishing Francesca’s fiction debut, we were all asked to read the book and provide blurbs so I’ve included mine here:

I was always given the advice “Write the novel you’d want to read,” and while I was in college, I kept looking for the novel, the voice, that would draw the publishing world’s attention to college stories that were more than what “new adult” was turning into. College stories that made a person think deeply about those most formative years, the right of passage, the experience of being on one’s own for the first time, that was what I wanted, craved, yearned for. And so I wrote terrible ones myself. But it turns out I’ve been longing for Francesca’s novel without knowing it for a decade and a half since I got my first round of college acceptance letters. In the last few years I’ve gotten to know Francesca, the essayist, and am now so thrilled to get to tell everyone about Francesca, the novelist. Her prose is spectacular, her pacing terrific – I had read 50 pages before I realized it, and her depiction of those most fragile years of mental health is so incredibly spot on. But that’s just about how much I loved the college setting. As a thriller writer, Francesca is bound to take the genre by storm this summer and her writing, which will certainly receive inevitable comparisons to her mother’s, stands entirely on its own. Francesca has a written a thriller that thriller lovers and non-thriller readers like myself will absolutely love. It is accessible, relatable, and so deeply routed in that most precious relationship of family, that it is sure to please every person who picks it up off our shelves.

I’m not typically a big thriller reader – they’re not really my jam, but when I realized that Francesca’s book was actually set in a college, I was so excited – there are so few books that are a, set in college, and b, good. Francesca’s is both. Also, I’ve gotten to know her a bit over the years and this was the first time an author personally requested that I, bookseller and book lover, review their book.

As booksellers, we’re asked to read and recommend books all the time, it’s our job, so it makes sense (and I have a ton of books to read and review by tomorrow for July’s Indie Next List), but there’s something really special about being valued as a reviewer, and a writer, by an author that you admire. I’ve enjoyed Francesca’s essays about being a millennial that she’s written for the Philadelphia Inquirer and I a delighted to support her and her fiction debut!

(If you want a signed copy, our store is taking order and shipping to anywhere in the US: check it out HERE!)

Rating: 8 out of 10 stars

Where to Buy
In the USA, I recommend purchasing through BookShop or your local independent, in the UK, and many other parts of the world, I recommend Blackwell’s, and if neither of those cover where you live, I recommend checking out your local booksellers! Independent bookstores are vital parts of every local community and I wholly endorse supporting your local stores versus Amazon.

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