Title: City of Ghosts
Author: Victoria Schwab
Series: Cassidy Blake #1
Published: Scholastic Press (August 28, 2018)
Pages: 285 (Hardcover)
City of Ghosts is Victoria Schwab’s first foray into middle grade. But while I enjoyed it, it didn’t blow me away. It’s a solidly okay read.
“Stories have power,” she says. “So long as you believe them.”
City of Ghosts tells the story of Cassidy Blake, a girl who can see ghosts after a near death experience. Her parents are paranormal investigators, and the story takes place in Edinburgh during filming of the first episode of their new television series. There, Cassidy meets a girl with the same “gift” who helps her learn more about herself and what she can do. Cassidy learns that she is an “In-betweener” – someone whose job it is to help ghosts cross the veil. But, she soon catches the interest of a malevolent ghost, and Cassidy must figure out how to use her gift and save herself.
“People think that ghosts only come out at night, or on Halloween, when the world is dark and the walls are thin. But the truth is, ghosts are everywhere. In the bread aisle at your grocery store, in the middle of you grandmother’s garden, in the front seat on your bus. Just because you can’t see them doesn’t mean they aren’t there.”
I liked the plot and the characters in this book. The friendship between Jacob and Cassidy was very sweet. And seeing Cassidy make a new friend in Edinburgh was nice (especially with the little bit of ‘not like other girls’ vibe I got at the beginning of the story). But it seemed to lack some of the whimsy and humor that I enjoy in my middle grade. It honestly kinda felt like a YA book with a middle grade aged protagonist. And, I know this seems kinda nitpicky, but the constant Harry Potter references grated on me after awhile. It seems more like they were put in for the adult reader rather than the middle grade one. But, I do plan to eventually pick up the second book and see where the stories goes next.
Title: Dead Voices
Author: Katherine Arden
Series: Small Spaces #2
Published: GP Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers (August 27, 2019)
Pages: 256 (Hardcover)
Dead Voices is the second book in Katherine Arden’s middle grade horror/paranormal series, and I loved it just as much as I loved the first one.
“Since October, none of them had liked being alone in the dark. It wasn’t that they were afraid, exactly. But they had learned that bad things could happen to you. At night. Alone. In the dark.”
This installment follows friends Ollie, Coco, and Brian who travel with their parents to Mount Hemlock Resort to ski over winter break. However, a bad snow storm causes a power outage so the trio is stuck inside camping by the fire to stay warm. On their first morning at the resort Mr. Vorland, a ghost hunter, shows up to investigate rumors of haunting at the lodge. Still reeling from their encounter with the Smiling Man in the Fall, Ollie Coco, and Brian are hesitant to trust a stranger. Especially when Ollie’s watching gives them a warning: “BEWARE”.
“I believe in memory. I believe in remembering someone you love so well that it becomes kind of like a ghost. You remember someone so hard that it feels like they’re in the next room, just around the corner, that they could walk in any minute.”
Dead Voices is a good ole fashioned ghost story, and it was a joy to read. It was equal parts humorous and chilling, and it’s perfect to read when its cold outside. I love the friendship between the trio; they talk about their issues and work through their problems together, and they’re always supportive each other. I especially love seeing strong female friendships in middle grade. As with the first book, there are themes of grief and loss, but also some hints about moving forward. And, this installment also deals with the resulting trauma from their experiences in the first book. I really liked that it wasn’t glossed over like it didn’t effect them. This story just has to much heart, and I can’t wait to see where the trio goes next.
Title: The House with Chicken Legs
Author: Sophie Anderson
Published: Usborne Publishing (April 5, 2018)
Pages: 337 (Trade Paperback)
The House with Chicken Legs is a quaint retelling of the Baba Yaga myth, and it it has definitely made me want to pick up more of Sophie Anderson’s work.
“’I don’t want to be a Guardian of The Gate.’ My voice is tiny, wavering. I clear my throat and try to speak more firmly. ‘I don’t want the dead’s lives to add to mine. I just want one life. My life. And I want to be able to choose what to do with it.’”
Marinka just wants to be a normal 12 year old girl. She wants to live in one place. Make a real friend. And have the ability to choose what she wants to do with her life. Unfortunately for Marinka, her house has chicken legs that allows it to travel all over the world on a whim. And her grandmother is a Yaga, a guardian who guides souls to the afterlife upon their death. When Marinka seizes the opportunity to make a real friend, despite warnings from her grandmother, she sets off a chain of events she didn’t expect.
“It’s not how long a life, but how sweet a life that counts.”
I love Marinka’s character development in this story. She’s a little selfish and she doesn’t always think before she acts, but she’s 12. That’s normal. And, throughout this story she learns so much about herself and the world she inhabits. This story is filled with so much hope and adventure. While on its surface its about a girl growing up in a magical house and being trained by her grandmother to take over the family business, its also about a girl fighting against the path that’s being laid out for her and feeling trapped by a life she didn’t choose. It’s about a young girl dealing with grief and loneliness, and having to deal with the consequences of your choices and making sacrifices for the ones you love. This story has found families, adorable animal companions, friendship, and love. If you’re looking for a heartwarming and whimsical middle grade, pick this one up.