Garth Hale is a young boy dying of an incurable disease. But as yet, he's not sick enough to be in the hospital. Instead he lives at home with his mom, who is upset with the fact that Garth is fixated on the more disgusting and horrific aspects of life.
Meanwhile, Frank Gallows is a ghost-hunter, but not a very good one. He sends Benedict Arnold back to the Ghost world, but when he is sent on a mission to send back a nightmare, the nightmare flees and ends up in Garth's House, and in his room When Frank pushes the button on his ghost manacles to send the nightmare back, it inadvertently sends Garth to the Ghost world as well.
This is a big problem for Frank, and Frank's boss as well. Frank, who has been making a lot of mistakes, is fired, and denied the opportunity to go into the ghost realm to try and get Garth back, which will take three days, because the machine to get them there takes that long to gather power. Meanwhile, Garth and the horse end up in the Ghost realm. For some reason the horse takes a liking to him and follows him. At first, Garth is angry with the Nightmare, but eventually decides he's not to blame, and calls him "Skinny" and ends up riding him- which saves him when he is attacked by a bony Tyrannosaur. Using the Nightmare, he's able to escape.
Frank goes to see a woman named Claire, telling her that he has to get Garth back. Claire is a ghost living in the human world, and she and Frank have a history, which Claire doesn't want to repeat. However, she does agree to take Frank to the Ghost World in her Plasmapod, which is ready to go right now. Frank thanks her, but she tells him she isn't doing it for him...
Meanwhile Garth and Skinny head for a city, only to meet another young Ghost on the way, who hides them from insects riding motorcycles. In addition to being bikers, the insects do their own version of tagging- using their claws to cut messages into things, like "I Was heer." Afterwards, Garth introduces himself to the boy, only for the Ghost to tell him he knows all about him- the Ghost boy is Garth's Grandfather. Cecil. Once Cecil realizes that Garth is still alive, he tells Garth he has to go back- he's not supposed to be here yet. There are different ways to get back, but Cecil has an idea.
Once, there was no Ghost City at all, but when a Tuskeegee airman named Joe would up in Ghost World, he built it with his own hands so that Ghosts would have somewhere to go. Some say it took him only six days, others say a billion years, but afterwards, he disappeared. leaving the city behind. Garth asks why his grandfather looks so young if he died when he was an old man, and Cecil tells him that in Ghostworld, you appear as your internal age, not the age you died at. Garth asks Cecil why his mom is so angry at him, and Cecil says they got into an argument over dangly earrings she wore when she got her ears pierced at sixteen. Garth is amazed that they didn't talk for twenty years over earrings. Cecil says it was a different time, then. Garth asks him about his drinking, and Cecil says, "Oh yeah, that, too." Suddenly Cecil ages, growing taller, and Garth tells him he looks about sixteen. Cecil thinks this is cool, and his voice changes as well.
Meanwhile, Frank and Claire enter Ghostworld. She says it has really come down since Vaughner took over, and Frank says Vaughner may have power, but he has style. They begin tracking Garth, but they aren't the only ones who want him. One of Vaughner's insect minions wants to eat him, but Vaughner tells him not yet. Garth is a threat to Vaughner's power, but he can also use the boy... He tests Garth's power and sees that Garth has ties to Joe, the Tukeegee Airman. Now, Vaughner really wants Garth.
Garth and Cecil arrive in Ghostopolis, and Cecil undergoes another growth spurt and gets some new clothes from a dead skeleton. Garth discovers he can fly and flies Cecil (who can no longer fly himself, around. Frank and Claire also arrive in Ghostopolis, which is having a celebration for the seven different nations that make up Ghost World. Vaughner came to power by manipulating the Kingdoms to fight each other and casting himself as a peacemaker. Now, he's conjuring bugs from the Underworld to do his bidding and making things so hard for the Ghosts that they try to escape back to the world of the living. Meanwhile, Claire and Frank go to see her grandfather, a werewolf. He sniffs out Garth for them, and they go to see him, but Vaughner's bugs try to get to him first, and a huge fight starts in Ghostopolis, Garth is kidnapped by minions of the Bone King and taken to his Kingdom, while Cecil ends up back in the human world thanks to the Plasmapod, which activates before Garth can get in it.
But the Bone King doesn't want to hurt Garth, he wants to help him. The Bone Kingdom helps Joe sends Ghosts to the other side. Joe tells Garth that he doesn't belong here yet- or on the side he sends people to. But Vaugher isn't about to let Garth go, and it's going to be a battle royale to defeat him and find a way home for Garth!
I loved this book. I liked the story and the Kingdoms of the Ghost World, and I loved all the parts of the story in the book- the story of Vaughner- the story of Frank and Claire (whose last name is Voyant, of course) and their love and relationship, and even the story of Joe, the story of Cecil and the bit of a story of Garth's son. In fact, the ending made me feel teary-eyed. The story succeeds as a romance, adventure and even a bit of drama.
The art took a bit of getting used to, but in the end, I felt it fit the story well. Despite taking place in the world of Ghosts, the art keeps the story grounded and makes it feel like it is really happening. The different kingdoms are also well depicted, as are their inhabitants, from the Kingdom of Bones to the Kingdom of Shades.
In then end I'd like to see another story set in the land of the Ghosts, or in the Underworld, but that's just because I loved it so much- all the characters have their stories wrapped up neatly by the end, and we know that Garth will survive his disease and have at least one child- Frank and Claire stay in the Ghost World, and Garth gets to go home, and his grandfather makes peace with his mother and regains the ability to fly. But I loved it so much that I still want to read more. Highly recommended.