Working in a scary house helps two preteens both connect and find their own identities.
It’s always been EmmaandOlivia, until Emma shoplifts a tube of lipstick and her identical twin, Olivia, takes the blame so Emma can still attend the summer camp of her dreams. Forced to enroll in another camp, the one for Bad Kids who need “positive redirection,” Olivia’s summer gets even worse when Ruby appears in her group. Even though Emma and Ruby had a falling-out over a boy, Olivia still blames Ruby’s friendship with Emma for straining her own relationship with Emma. The only good thing about this “camp” is cataloging artifacts from Live Oak House rather than picking trash—until creepy dolls talk, the mansion seems hungry to eat them, and other oddities occur. But the haunted house really serves as a vehicle to bring these white 12-year-olds together. Alternating chapters in their respective voices reveal Olivia’s suppressed anger and need to form a life apart from her twin and Ruby’s misperceptions of Olivia and lingering grief over her deceased grandmother. As they work to solve the mystery of Live Oak House, Ruby and Olivia become fast friends while also encouraging the best in each other. Maybe they still need Emma—but on their own terms.
This lightly spooky story demonstrates the complexities of preteen girl relationships. (Mystery. 8-12)