Ghosts of Mars by by Stuart White and Jennifer Jamieson

Growing up in the 1950s and 1960s I had a strong awareness of science fiction, but also the way the major powers were striving to get to the Moon and then beyond.  There were not many science fiction stories for children in the early days, but there was a huge amount for adults.  As a young library assistant, I devoured both crime and sci-fi stories and many of them were published in a yellow library edition by Gollancz, of which it has been said: “its main postwar strengths were detective fiction and sf: from the early 1960s to the late 1980s it was the premier UK publisher of sf books in hardcover, both native and US

In the 1970s we started seeing more books written specifically for the young reader and a particularly popular series was the  “Tripod” series by John Christopher.  However the growth in Sci-Fi was really expanded by TV series such as Dr Who, Blake’s Seven and Star Trek, but this was then overwhelmed by the franchise that is “Star Wars”.  With a renewal in the desire to return to space, we have seen another surge in books with a space setting and they are now reaching out to their new younger audiences.

Eva, the thirteen year old heroine of this story, has a lot to put up with; her mother died when she was young, she is a type 1 diabetic and she has the dubious distinction of being the first human to be born on Mars.  As she faces discrimination by some of the other children, she relies on the support of her father and her AI companion to help her cope.  So, when her father and his team go missing she decides she has to go and find them.  Linked to this we have the ‘ghosts’ that Eva starts to see, one of who looks remarkably like her late mother, the question is, are they hallucinations or are the real? If they are real, then who are they and why are they trying to make contact with Eva?

This is an fast paced story with a strong female character who has to overcome so many difficulties.  The issues around her type 1 diabetes are profound because, after an accident, the colony does not have supplies of insulin and Eva has to depend on outdated technology to keep her alive.  We gradually see that as the story continues, that the organization running the colony are only in it for the profit they can make and the infrastructure is facing collapse.

The book reminds me of the series  “The Martian Chronicles” by Ray Bradbury, which I watched on TV many years ago.  There is the same question of identity and belonging, something that Eva really struggles with.  We all assume that there is no advanced life form on Mars, so it is ‘safe’ to build colonies for the human race, but has that always been the case?  Whilst this is a great adventure story for young people, it also asks a range of questions about the way some groups feel that they have the right to expand wherever they like; in the same way that countries and large corporations have done throughout history.

This exciting and thought provoking read will make a great addition to the Science Fiction Genre for middle grade children.  It will also provide inspiration for the many young people who enjoy STEM subjects.


About BBNYA 

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Author Bio

Stuart is an award-winning author and secondary school teacher. He has a Masters Degree in Creative Writing and founded, and now runs, WriteMentor. In 2020 and 2022 he was placed on the SCWBI Undiscovered Voices longlist and named as an Honorary Mention for his novels ‘Ghosts of Mars’ and ‘Astra FireStar and the Ripples of Time’. In 2023, he won the WriteBlend award for his middle grade debut, Ghosts of Mars.

Stuart was included in The Bookseller’s 2021 list of Rising Stars in the publishing industry.


With a Type 1 Diabetic main character, Ghosts of Mars explores how life beyond Earth, and the fame and scrutiny that come with it, affects the young people involved, who didn’t sign up for life on Mars. Ten percent of author profits go to Diabetes UK.


Book Details

Length: 280 pages

Genre: Fantasy, Science Fiction

Age Category: Middle Grade

Date Published: 12 September 2022 (UK)

Goodreads Link:

The StoryGraph Link: 




YALC 2017

This definitely seems to be my year for having new book related experiences and yesterday I finally attended the Young Adult Literature Convention (YALC) which is now in its 5th year. It is part of the London Film and Comic Con, so there were a lot of people walking around wearing the most amazing and often weird costumes.  We had Star Wars, Star Trek, Dr Who, Steam Punk, as well as others that I cannot guess at.  However, it was brilliant to see so many enthusiastic and committed fans, all of whom seemed keen to let the world share in their passion.  YALC had its own area on the 2nd floor, so that it was a self contained unit.  Lots of out favourite YA publishers were there and there were plenty of freebies (in the guise of bookmarks, postcards and even book chapters), some proofs (all gone by the time I arrived) and books at generously reduced prices.

The whole set up was very well organized with a ‘room’ for workshops, a large ‘room’ for talks/panels and masses of space for author signing sessions.  It is difficult to describe the ‘buzz’ that was going on all day, but it was fantastic to see so many young (and not so young) people who obviously love reading these books.  Having said all of this I did not feel that the hall was crowded; after seeing tweets from the following two days I am convinced that they were the busiest days. On the plus side it meant that the queues were not too long and people were able to talk to their favourite authors as they enjoyed the activities.

I had marked up two panel events that I really wanted to attend and they did not disappoint in any way.  The first was a discussion about Historical Fiction, something that has been seen as “rather boring” by many in the YA world and yet the panel were totally convinced of the opposite.  The chair of the panel was Katherine Woodfine and the members were Juno Dawson, Catherine Johnson and Elizabeth Wein, all of them at the forefront of YA writing today.  Their motivation for writing about the past differed, with Elizabeth being inspired to write about young women pilots after she gained her own Private Pilot’s Licence, Catherine wanted to read about people like herself (people of colour) and Juno wanted to look at the lives of LGBT young people in the past. The panel spoke about how they went about the process of writing and specifically about the type of research they undertook.  I was particularly impressed by Elizabeth Wein who went “Wing Walking” as part of her research!  the panel also discussed what we learn from history and how we need to be skeptical about what we read as history is often ‘whitewashed’.  they all have  their favourite suggestions for getting the ‘feel’ of the book correct; this includes reading period books to get the language right, Pathe newsreels to hear the voices and see the clothes and early films.  Just as with Sci-Fi and Fantasy it is vital that the world building is accurate and feels right to the reader.

I found that I had time before my final session so I treated myself to a panel talking about writing “Thrillers”.  the panel was a large and well respected one including Sophie McKenzie, Teri Terry, Matthew Crow, Karen M McManus and Emily Barr.  there was a long discussion about what people used as their main focus; for some it was about the place and going somewhere very different, whilst others tended to use locations that they were very familiar with and which the readers learn to relate to.  Everyone agreed about the vital importance of characterization with “People in conflict with others and themselves”. The readers  are often in the 12-14 age group and they are also going through great changes in their lives.  Overall this was a very stimulating session which I thoroughly enjoyed.

My final session was one that I thought might teach me something about a TV series that I only seemed to watch the trailers for, it was called “We love Buffy” and was for real aficionados of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  I was totally amazed by the knowledge that these people had about the show.  They knew the names of the episodes, the characters, the songs; it was incredible.  The panel consisted of Katherine Woodfine, Laure Eve, Alison Goodman, Non Pratt, Harriet Reuter Hapgood and Stefan Mohammed and their experience of the series was quite wide ranging, in line with the variations in their ages.  Some had watched as children and teens, whilst others had been adults.  This meant that their understanding and fear levels were very variable, but they had all been totally sucked into the series and till had that enthusiasm that denotes a true fan.  Everyone had their favourite characters, although whenever someone else was mentioned you could hear the mental re-assessment ; however they did agree that “Giles is the world’s coolest librarian” and who am I to disagree with that.

This had proved to be a fantastic experience meeting friends, listening to fantastic authors and generally wallowing in the world of YA books.  I definitely feel that I will be back next year and maybe I will include the Saturday as it seemed fabulous on Twitter.


Meanwhile I have a lot of reading to catch up on ready for the next set of blog posts on a wide range of books.