Sinykin, Sheri. Giving Up the Ghost
October 1st 2007 by Peachtree Publishers
Paperback from Young Adult Books Central.
Davia is afraid of everything, mainly because her mother was very sick with cancer, and Davia was afraid that she would lose her. When her family goes from Wisconsin to the South to stay with great aunt Mari, she and her mother stay with the aunt, who is dying of cancer, and the father goes to help with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Davia is too afraid to leave her mother. Aunt Mari is quite the character, and lets Davia in on a family secret-- there is a ghost that must be taken care of in the "big house", and it's best if that's done before Mari passes away. Even though she is frightened, Davia explores her family history and gets to know the ghost so that she can send her on her way.
This creepy, atmospheric book has great descriptions of a derelict Southern mansion. The humidity is palpable, and the desperation of the ghost is mirrored in Davia's fears for her mother. Mari's realistic approach to her condition is refreshing, even if Davia and her mother are not as open minded about this approaching death. There are also many details about Mari's frailty, and her approach to the end of her life.
The back story of the ghost, Emilie, is rather grim when it is finally revealed, and younger elementary readers might be upset by it, but middle school students will find it to be very interesting. Davia's encounters with the ghost are dangerous and pulse pounding-- something middle grade readers love!
With a creepy cover, reader friendly format (Peach Tree does a particularly good job at using comfortable text sizes and white spaces!), and a Hurrican Katrina tie-in, Giving Up the Ghost is an intriguing novel of tying up both real life and supernatural loose ends.
I don't know that I will buy this one-- it's not really as much about ghosts as it is about Aunt Mari dying. The way that Emilie died is also rather disturbing to adult sensibilities, and was a bit too much for me.