Thursday, August 13, 2015

The House on Stone's Throw Island/ No Such Person

24612629Poblocki, Dan. The House on Stone's Throw Island.
August 25th 2015 by Scholastic Press
ARC from Young Adult Books Central

Josie and Eli aren't crazy about the way they have to spend their time-- going to a fancy island for their respective brother's and sister's wedding. They like the idea even less when the parents try to throw them together, joking about another wedding in ten years. They get along okay, though, especially when weird things start happening. The weather darkens, communication is cut off, and Josie sees a girl in a muddy dress run through her room and disappear into a secret passage. Josie and Eli find several secret places, including a run down, fort like building on the property, and  Josie finds a diary from the 1940s. They do their research, too, asking the vaguely creepy older couple who are caretakers about the history of the property. When the storm rolls in and causes a tree to crash on the house, things start to get weird. Trusted family and friends are possessed by spirits of German soldiers who came to grief as the result of a failed spy operation, and everyone must work together to survive.
Strengths: It's hard to find scary ghost stories for middle grade readers, and Poblocki has a string of really awesome books. This had lots of good elements, and lots of scary scenes, especially in the water. If you were a fan of The Poseidon Adventure, definitely check this out.
Weaknesses: This moved more slowly than most ghost stories, and there were five fairly major characters that ended up dead at the end. Since there were a lot of characters, and they weren't terribly well-developed, this wasn't as crushing as it could be. Just not as scary to me, even though the cover is very nice and atmospheric.
What I really think: I thought that Poblocki's titles were getting progressively scarier and more in tune with what my students want to read in the way of super creepy ghost stories, and this had a lot of good elements, but they didn't work together as well for me.

23395662Cooney, Caroline B. No Such Person
14 July 2015, Delacorte Press
Copy from Young Adult Books Central and reviewed there

Teen Miranda has long suffered by comparison to her older sister Lander, who has big plans to attend medical school. While their family is spending the summer at their lake house, the two girls see a water skiing accident. Miranda is sure that the driver of the boat tried to kill the skier, (who miraculously survives) but Lander is immediately entranced by Jacob. The two spend a whirlwind week together that ends with Jacob teaching Lander to shoot a handgun. This act apparently results in the death of the same man involved in the water skiing accident, and the police come and arrest Lander, since her fingerprints are the only ones on the gun. Despite the fact that her parents are now involved in trying to get legal representation for Lander because she has been charged with murder, Miranda is certain that Lander is innocent. She posts on Facebook for leads to the real identity of Jacob, a move that the police think is much too risky, since Jacob, as well as Derry, the man who was killed, are involved in drug running. Sure enough, threats come at Miranda from an unexpected source, and she must use all of her intelligence to survive so that she can get her sister free.

Told in alternating view points (Miranda and Lander), No Such Person offers a raw and horrifying look at what happens to Lander during her arrest and imprisonment, as well as the terrifying chain of events that befall Miranda while her sister is under suspicion. Even though the two were never close, Miranda knows that her sister's fate is closely tied to the family's fortune, so she willingly endangers herself even though she felt from the beginning that her sister's obsession with Jacob was unhealthy.

The supporting characters are multifacted as well. The wealthy and involved parents, to whose house everyone in the neighborhood loves to come, are discovered to be not as financially sound as Miranda had imagined, and they crumble in the face of difficulties. The villains are surprisingly close to the family, and their motivation, while perfectly logical, comes as a bit of a surprise.

The eerily detached tone is juxtaposed with the bright, uncomplicated light of the summer days on the lake. Jacob himself appears to be bright and uncomplicated to Lander, but immediately hits Miranda as sinister. The stark realism of the prison in which Lander finds herself is compared with the breezy beach house in which Miranda spends her days. This emotional see sawing makes No Such Person an an even more unsettling unsettling mystery, and one which is appropriate even for middle school readers who like this author's Face on the Milk Carton and who enjoy murder mysteries.

The only thing about this that bothered me were the names. Lander and Miranda for sisters? And while I get Lanny as a nickname for the former, how is Rimmie a nickname for the latter?

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