I am very happy to review any novel that fits in with the theme of this blog: novels aimed at 9-14 year olds, preferably with a fantasy/ speculative world setting. However, I will make clear in the review that I was sent the book by the publisher and I will write my honest opinion. Please feel free to contact me via Twitter or Facebook, or fantasticreads at gmail dot com.
Saturday, 7 January 2012
There's a ghost in my house...
I recently finished the wonderful new book by Cathy McPhail, Out of the Depths. Set in a Scottish school, it is the story of Tyler Lawless, who sees dead people. The story opens wonderfully: "I saw my teacher in the queue at the supermarket last Christmas. Miss Baxter. I was surprised to see her. She'd been dead for six months."
Tyler's ability to see ghosts is not necessarily a positive thing though; it gets her in trouble at one school, the reputation of being a self-dramatising liar, and jeapordises her ability to settle at her new school. St Anthony's Academy had been a Catholic boys' school, though it is now coeducational and multi-faith. On her first day, she notices that the statues of the saints appear to be moving. Even more strangely, she sees a boy in her classroom that nobody else has noticed. Her new friends tell her about the murder that happened at the school years ago, of a troubled boy called Ben Kincaid. Tyler realises that the boy she can see is Ben. Then he asks her to help him... A gripping story; the final twist I really didn't see coming. I can't wait for the next one!
Another great series about a girl who can see ghosts is Fiona Dunbar's Kitty Slade. Fire and Roses is the second in the series; the third, Venus Rocks, has just been published. Kitty is now home schooled by her Greek grandmother (events in the first story means that she can't stay at school!) In this story, Kitty and her family are visiting an old family friend. Strange Poltergeist activity at their house leads Kitty to discover that they are under a curse because of their ancestor Sir Ambrose Vyner. Another ghost, John Wilkes, a fellow member of the Hellfire Club (a drinking club that invoked Bacchus and Venus and engaged in various practices designed to shock society) appears to Kitty, and she must solve a mystery to break the curse and ensure her friends can stay in their home. Much of the action of the book takes place in and near the Hellfire Caves in West Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, South East England; a great feature of the book is that young readers will learn some of the history and geography of the area alongside enjoying the story.
This book is lighter in tone than Out of the Depths; Fiona Dunbar aims to write stories similar to the Famous Five; I felt it was more like Nancy Drew crossed with Scooby Doo. Very enjoyable.
Out of the Depths I would recommend to 11+, and Fire and Roses to 10+. Two very enjoyable books.
The title of this post is from the Northern Soul classic, R. Dean Taylor's Ghost In My House.