In order to fulfill his dead great-uncle’s wish, seventh-grader Tony begins attending the spooky, rambling, and possibly haunted Penda School.
Classmate Jessica reaches out to him, perhaps offering friendship, but he’s aware that she’s a strange, unpopular girl (and seems to look a lot like Morticia from her description). The more people warn him to avoid her, however, the more determined he becomes to remain her friend. He keeps seeing the ghosts of both his uncle and a boy who died over 100 years ago, the son of the school’s founder, even though he’s pretty sure he doesn’t believe in ghosts. Worse yet, the boy seems desperate to make real contact with him, but Jessica warns him that the ghost wants to capture his soul. Although Tony’s narration can sound more authorial than like the voice of a 12-year-old, this atmospheric tale has plenty of creepiness to propel it, sometimes at a breathtaking pace. As it becomes clear that Jessica cannot be trusted, Tony also realizes that she might be just one of multiple threats, making him—and readers—doubt everyone. Hair-raising chases through dark, menacing secret passageways with the not-quite-dead at Tony’s heels combine with an effective mingling of genuine school angst and the more spectral variety to create a scary, suspenseful, and chillingly immersive experience. The jacket illustration paints Tony as white.
Don’t read this one in a dark and haunted school. (Horror. 10-14)