A complex YA novel that synthesizes elements of crime drama, teenage angst, and the supernatural.
Ten-year-old Cathy Corbett is in anguish over her ill mother’s extended convalescence. Distraught and alienated, she befriends a mysterious young girl who calls herself “Bluebird” who lives with her father, Pete, in an abandoned house that’s rumored to be haunted. Pete forbids Bluebird to leave the house or receive visitors, and as a result, Cathy’s father becomes convinced that Bluebird is an imaginary friend that her daughter conjured to help her cope with the stress of her mother’s illness. After Cathy’s mom dies, the girl moves away to Toledo, Ohio, with her father. Six years later, Bluebird tracks her down and confides that she’s in trouble: Pete, she says, stole money from someone called “Fatman” and was killed as a result; she only managed to escape after shooting his murderer. Now she has the money that he stole—and two dogged assassins on her trail. The story also weaves in a fantastical element: before her mother died, Cathy became convinced that she’d summoned a demon named Kenny with a Ouija-like game; Bluebird believes that it’s a wraith—a creature that visits those about to die; Cathy thinks that she saw Kenny visit her mother and her own high school friend before their respective deaths. Ginter (Passionate Death, 2015, etc.) artfully obscures the line between the real and the hallucinatory, keeping it tantalizingly unclear whether Cathy is peculiarly attuned to the spirit world or simply going mad. The book’s depiction of youthful world-weariness is vivid and compelling, and its dialogue can be deliciously clever, as when Bluebird, hiding out in Cathy’s school, observes, “I’m like a backward truant. The first kid to escape to school.” Cathy’s life sometimes seems overburdened with woe; a subplot involving a cheating boyfriend and his mother’s death, for example, may strain readers’ credulity. Likewise, Bluebird’s back story, brimming with adventure and peril, has an unconvincing, comic-book–like feel to it. Still, at other times, Ginter has a gift for making the unlikely seem believable—a key element to a successful fantasy mystery.
A gripping, intriguingly creepy tale of suspense.