Marcus O’Mara’s world is turned upside down when he begins to see frightening apparitions while at school serving detention.
The ghostly sightings increase as the white 13-year-old discovers that he is being hunted by a mysterious old woman. She confronts him, demanding that he “surrender the key.” Unable to turn to his adopted parents, who he feels hate him, Marcus shares the haunting visitations with his two closest friends, Lu, an Asian girl with a roller-derby aesthetic, and Theo, a buttoned-up black boy. (Marcus reflects, “It would be a grand slam if we had a Hispanic friend. Or maybe a Tongan.") Following clues left by a ghost in a bathrobe, Marcus learns of his secret connection to an ancient curse, one that leads him to a doorway to which he is the only keyholder. This doorway leads to a library of unfinished stories of the dead. Marcus must find the answers to keep his loved ones from harm, and that means opening the door to the shadowed past of his birth parents. MacHale deftly pulls readers into this page-turning adventure, well-choreographed chapter transitions defying them to put it down. The likable, feisty Marcus narrates, following a prologue that sets up the rest of the book.
Readers will be rooting for this tenacious kid as he keeps a steady head and stays just a step or two ahead of creepy beings conjured from a supernatural world. (Fantasy. 8-12)