An awkward protagonist takes on an unconventional “haunted” house in this dark middle-grade fantasy from England.
Of course 10-year-old Amelia felt very sorry for her cousins after their parents died. But it was still completely unfair that she would have to say goodbye to her own best friend, leave her own perfect home, even share her own parents, and come to live in this horrid old house with 12 rooms and four stories. However, she soon discovers that the house is special, and once she meets not-a-ghost Horatio, who takes her on the most amazing adventures across space and time…why, that makes Amelia special too. But is the price of magic worth it? Amelia’s voice—prickly, vain, selfish, book-loving, desperately lonely, and almost as clever as she thinks she is—dominates the narrative. While ethnicity is never mentioned, every character appears to be white and professional class. As clues to the house’s real nature and Horatio’s secret agenda slowly accumulate behind the exciting (if historically inaccurate) time-traveling set pieces, a sense of menacing dread develops subtly through sinister metaphors and gruesome imagery until it is almost too late. If Amelia’s change of heart feels abrupt and her cousins’ sudden cooperation unbelievable, her solution to their dire peril is both quick-witted and satisfying.
A just-scary-enough adventure that might send readers to investigate more about real-life “calendar houses” like Amelia’s new one. (Horror. 8-12)