Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Bumps in the Night

Howard, Amalie. Bumps in the Night
February 20, 2024 by Delacorte Press
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

After almost thirteen-year-old Darika Lovelace vandalizes a school wall with her artwork, she is sent from Colorado to live with her grandmother, Delilah, out in the Trinadadian countryside. She's angry for many reasons; her mother Dulcie has been gone for several years and has not contacted her at all, her father has remarried and has other children, and there isn't even any internet at her grandmother's house. When Rika had visited when she was nine, her grandmother was mentoring an older girl named Monique who was possessive and nasty. There are a few good things about being with her grandmother, including the fact that her grandmother is having Rika clean out an older part of the house, including her mother's childhood bedroom. Rika hopes to get some insights into her mother's whereabouts, since her grandmother is oddly secretive about everything. This is actually a fairly awful plan on her grandmother's part. Rika has seen some odd people and things around, including a woman who acted oddly at the airport, Ushara. Neither the grandmother or her handyman will tell Rika anything, but they do demand that she stay away from parts of the property. Once she makes friends with a baby iguana and children from the area, she gets herself in some supernatural trouble with Bazil, a bad guy who seems to know a lot about her mother's disappearance. Rika is sent on a quest by Bazil, along with Nox, Hazel, Monique, and Fitz, an has to beat his challenge in order to shed light on a whole host of family secrets. Will Rika be able to be reunited with her mother, and will she learn more about the fact that she is actually a witch?
Strengths: This was an interesting look at summer with a grandmother who also happens to be a witch but isn't telling you anything. There are lots of good details about the house, the surrounding area, and the local traditions of magic. There are some interesting literary shout outs, including one to "old favorites" that Rika and her high school math teacher mother had in common, including Riordan's Percy Jackson. I did the math, and, yeah, the mother of a 13-year-old could have read The Lightnight Thief in middle school. Rika is able to assemble a team of local children to help her with her efforts to find out more about her mother. I love the cover on this one! 
Weaknesses: This has several middle grade fantasy tropes; finding out about powers at 13, going on a quest that involves going underground, answering riddles, and defeating a bad character, a missing parent, etc. Young readers who haven't read as many fantasy books as I have won't care. I also didn't quite understand why Rika's grandmother just didn't tell her the truth.
What I really think: This is a good choice for readers who like culturally infused horror books like TraorĂ©, Efua. Children of the Quicksands, Bourne's Nightmare IslandHendrix's Adia Kelbara and the Circle of Shamans, or Abu-Jaber's Silverworld.

Just a side note: I don't believe in anything I can't see and explain, so I don't believe in douens or jumbies or witches. That being said, if my grandmother had told me not to do something AND I had seen some creepy things, I absolutely would have listened to her. If I came from a culture that DID believe in the supernatural the way that Trini culture does (Baptiste's The Jumbies is another good example of a book that incorporates these elements), I would not be messing around outside. Of course, I also have every confidence that no supernatural evil would have dared set foot on my Pennsylvanian Presbyterian grandmother's farm. She would have been able to wither it with a glance! 

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous12:30 PM EST

    I'm not into witches, etc, and I appreciate your honest review. Carol Baldwin