The gist: Little tweenage girl Ginny Anderson is forced against her will to live in a historic mansion in a quaint little Michigan tourist town—the horror! Wait…let me go find the world’s smallest violin. OK, I’m back. The struggle is real when she must give up her summer writing course to spend a whole month with her perfect family in a spooky manor surrounded by even spookier woods. Paranormal happenings commence, and it’s up to Ginny and her brother to prove the ghosts are real so they can convince their parents to return the whole fam back to their boring city lives in Chicago.
What I like: As I’m sure you can tell by my snarky tone, I’m not a big fan of this story. However, I must give credit where credit is due. I was drawn in by the overall storyline involving a haunted manor and enchanted woods. There was also an element of mystery behind the hauntings, which I always enjoy in a haunted house story. So hats off to the author for coming up with a winning premise that pulls readers like me in like catnip!
What irked me: I admit, I’m much, much, MUCH older than the intended target audience, here, so I should note that I’m rather detached from modern-day tweenage life. I do, however, remember what it was like to be a kiddo, so that should give me some merit, no? Either way, I could not relate to Ginny and her incessant whining about having to live in a haunted mansion for the summer. How cool would that be for a murder mystery buff who devours every novel by the Queen of Mystery? This girl claims to be obsessed with Agatha Christie books, but yet she couldn’t find it within herself to be the slightest bit intrigued by a century-old mansion shrouded in mystery? For me, an actual lifelong murder mystery fan, that would be THE DREAM! I mean, really? She’d rather be spending her summer months in a classroom learning about writing mysteries rather than actually solving one? This isn’t congruent with her self-proclaimed love for Agatha Christie, and I had a really hard time buying it.
Thoughts on the setting: I really enjoyed the spooky Woodmoor Manor with all its hidden mysteries—and the haunted bedroom with the creepy mannequin. The ghostly manifestations were about as scary as a Scooby Doo special, so it’s perfect for little readers who scare easily. I also love, love, love vacationing in Mackinac Island, so this touristy Michigan setting really took me back to those carefree days of eating fudge on Main Street and riding bikes around the entire village.
Overall: As far as middle-grade thrillers go, this one is mediocre to say the least. If you’re looking for a good spooky mystery in this genre, I recommend anything by Mary Downing Hahn. Start with Closed for the Season—that’s my favorite!