A white boy who uses a manual wheelchair is drawn into a real ghost story when a famous horror author and his daughters, also white, move in next door.
As a self-conscious wheelchair user and an English immigrant in a small Maine town, seventh-grader Harold Bell dubs himself the “ultimate unicorn” for bullies like white tough guy Alex Hewitt. But bullies pale in comparison to the vengeful ghost unleashed when horror author Frank Goolz activates the Stone of the Dead, an artifact that raises the dead by draining the life force of the living who use it. When Alex disappears, Harold and the Goolz girls, confident Ilona and her headstrong little sister, Suzie, must brave the ghost to save him. In an unexplained development, holding the stone restores Harold’s ability to walk, causing him to covet the stone at his peril. Though such horrors as a rotting ghost and a crab-covered corpse are gruesome, human villains lose their menace in caricature and exposition. The ghost, the bullies, and the aforementioned corpse are hastily connected, and the ending sends Harold and the Goolzes on another adventure. Though Harold’s occasional exposition makes the suspense somewhat halting, he and the Goolzes share a droll sense of humor. Harold’s conflicting feelings about his paralysis are sympathetically addressed, and the “magical cure” trope is somewhat complicated by Harold’s history: he became paralyzed at age 7, so his memories of walking make his desire to do so again believable.
An easy, quick read for horror fans who want to be scared but not terrified. (Horror. 9-12)