The last time I purchased a scary book for myself was when I read the Mara Dyer books, and the first one was so upsetting that I put it down and didn’t come back for a year after reading just a couple of chapters. However, I’ve encountered a lot of YA horror/mystery since I started reading for NetGalley, and since I can’t really resist a ghost, especially one with an intriguing cover and a price tag of free, I’ve read at least ten in the past few months. I can’t say it is my favorite thing to read, and I think I judge this sub genre more harshly than I do others, so I offer up two ghost stories today, neither of them particularly great in my opinion. However, for those of you who fondly remember that little scamp by the pond in “Wait Till Helen Comes,” these might just be the high school equivalent you have been seeking.
Phoebe moves into her step father’s ancestral home in England and discovers her family is not alone, and whatever is living with them wants her baby sister. I’m lukewarm about this book. It reads quickly, and the writing style is professional and engaging. Phoebe, is an admirable character who loves her family, but she is honest about being a little jealous of her baby sister. She reads as realistic and relatable. There is a nice little twist to the narrative that many readers will enjoy. The problem for me was really that, even in this context, the explanations for the haunting seemed so far fetched and my disbelief couldn’t extend that far. I think middle school readers are more likely to appreciate the light horror and suspense of Haunted, and they are less likely to be bothered by the weak back story. Language and situations are appropriate for grades 7 and up.
Recovering from a near deadly ordeal that left her with the power to sense the dead, Mary is expecting a boring vacation with her parents and the ghost of her best friend, Lacey. It doesn’t take long for Mary to find herself, once again, battling an evil entity determined to leave death and revenge in its wake — the ghost of a murdered girl has been taking lives for the past five years, waiting for the perfect moment to get even, unless Mary can stop her. This book hits the mark when it comes to horrifyingly vivid descriptions. There were some pretty scary images of the ghost that I could visualize in detail. In other respects, it was rather disappointing. It lacked the atmosphere I expected in a horror novel, mostly because it was dominated by vapid teen talk and bestie drama. There wasn’t really any suspense and the romance was weak. A lot of readers said you didn’t need to read the prequel novella to enjoy this book, but I have to disagree. Almost all of the character growth had to do with Mary coming to terms with an experience I had not read about, and that was frustrating. The resolution was disappointing — it was just too easy after all the build up. The language and situations are appropriate for high school, and maybe a high school reader would have better luck connecting with this character, but she just didn’t feel real to me.
I recieved copies of both Mary Hades and Haunted from their respective publishers via NetGalley in exchange for honest reviews.