Tuesday, June 28, 2022

The Lonely Ghost

Ford, Mike. The Lonley Ghost
June 28th 2022 by Scholastic Paperbacks
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Twins Ava and Cassie move with their parents into Blackthorn House, that their parents are renovating in order to open a bed and breakfast. In the frenzy of moving, Ava is distressed to learn that her father forgot to turn in the forms to play soccer. Since an activity is required in seventh grade, she ends up joining the drama club with Cassie, who is organized and sent in her own forms. The house is rumored to be haunted, and had been last occupied by Lily, a woman born in the early 1900s, who was reclusive and had an interest in the supernatural. There are a few odd things in the house, like weird drawings of a screaming girl scribbled under some wall paper, but mostly it is just in need of deep cleaning and many repairs. It's not a horrible move; the girls are befriended right away on the bus by Aisha and Gwen, who are somewhat intrigued by the history of the house, but also share a love of the same types of books that Cassie reads, and who are very welcoming. Ava gets paired with peer mentor Beth-Ann, a stereotypical "mean girl", who is less friendly but doesn't bother the girls too much. When Cassie starts to retreat into herself, Ava notices the change right away and is very worried when her sister gets a good role in the school production of The Wizard of Oz, but starts to hide in her room, talk to herself, and sometimes even to harness weird powers. Ava finds a journal written by Lily in 1916, and learns that she also had a twin, Violet, who was exhibiting the same troublesom behaviors. Since Violet died, Ava and her new friends investigate what might be going on, using books by an author who is set to visit to get some background. After talking to the author, they think they know how to free Cassie from the evil spirit that is posessing her. Will they be able to put their plan into action in time? 
Strengths: Ava and Cassie were well depicted twins; they had different interests but were similar enough to enjoy the same friends, and were open to investigating each other's interests even when they weren't very good at the same things. I loved that they made friends right away; I think in many schools, new children are seen as a welcome distraction and do find friend groups fairly quickly. The back story of Lily as the owner of the house works, and we do meet neighbors who had known her for a long time. Neighborhood history is always interesting, and I wish we would see more interactions with neighbors in middle grade books. The friend drama with Beth-Ann takes a nice turn, and it's good to see a novel where the characters are all nice to each other despite problems. The ghosts end up being quite interesting once they make their appearance, and there's some good ghost dispatching work that goes on. The house is also interesting, for readers who love a good historical structure.
Weaknesses: The timeline is carefully constructed with Lily's age and events going on in the world, but I found it a little hard to believe that a journal that was over 100 years old would be just lying on a bed in an abandoned summer house . 
What I really think: Hand this to readers who want a slow reveal of horror that isn't very scary mixed with some school drama. Read alikes would include the work of India Hill Brown, Ellen Oh's Spirit Hunters, and Anderson's Riley's Ghost. I was hoping for something a bit scarier, since the cover was reminiscent of Lindsay Duga's Ghost in the Headlights

Ms. Yingling

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