Curse of the Boggin: The Library, Book 1 by D.J.MacHale. In a Library where books involving ghosts and superstitions and curses and monstrous beings are “finished” as they are lived out in the real world, Marcus and his two best friends, Annabella Lu and Theo McLean, work together to solve the supernatural mysteries and lay the ghosts to rest. This is the introductory volume in a projected series of supernatural (spooky) adventures. In the introduction to this introduction, the author tells his readers, “Once you’ve read the first book, you can read the rest in any order. Each will hold a unique tale that doesn’t necessarily rely on any of the others.” That’s a good plan, except that I found this first book to be a little bit un-scary and unbelievable. I couldn’t ever figure out what the rules were for what the Boggin (a kind of ghostly witch-hag, very evil) could and couldn’t do. Maybe if you like horror and ghost stories (I don’t really, unless there’s some other attractive element to add to the ghosts), you’ll like it better than I did.
The Peculiar Night of the Blue Heart by Lauren DeStefano is definitely peculiar. However, it’s not clear until the final chapters of the book whether the “blue heart” is about demon possession, mental illness, werewolves, ghosts, feral children, or something else entirely. The book has two main characters, Lionel and Marybeth, who live in a sort of orphanage/foster home with the loving but overworked Mrs. Mannerd. Marybeth is a good girl, healthy, obedient and kind, and Lionel is . . . peculiar. He pretends to be a wolf or a bear or a monkey from time to time, and he eats most of his meals under the table, vegetarian only. Lionel and Marybeth are friends, in spite of their very different personalties, so when the “blue heart” (whatever it really is) takes over Marybeth’s mind and body, Lionel is determined to at least act like a normal human being in order to save her. I think this one is way too disturbing for middle grade readers.
The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge is creepy, too. Faith SUnderly is a proper Victorian young lady who has always been told, and who believes, that she is inferior in every way to men. Her father, the Reverend Sunderly is not only a cleric but also a world famous paleontologist. Faith, too is interested in science and in anything that will impress her father and get him to pay attention to her, but when she begins to learn more about her father’s research, she also finds herself enmeshed in a web of lies and deceit that won’t let go. This one is about Darwinian evolution, and feminism, and of course, lies. The plot was compelling and kept me reading, but I thought the ending was unsatisfying. Also, Faith is fifteen years old, and the themes will be more interesting to high schoolers and adults than to middle grade readers. However, it is a Halloween-ish read.
I also read these Halloween-ish ghost stories from this year: The Remarkable Journey of Charlie Price by Jennifer Maschari and School of the Dead by Avi.
Best ghost story of 2016 (so far) goes to one I haven’t read yet: Lockwood & Co., Book Four: The Creeping Shadow by Jonathan Stroud. If you want a little wit and banter in your ghostly Halloween read, you should really try the Lockwood and Company series, starting with The Screaming Staircase, progressing to The Whispering Skull, and then The Hollow Boy. If you’ve read and enjoyed those three, you’ll want to read The Creeping Shadow, which is what I am picking for my Halloween read.