Publication Date: September 1, 2015
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Children's
Reading Level: Middle Grade (age 9 - 12)
Pages: 240 (ARC)
Source: BEA 2015
Pram Bellamy is special—she can talk to ghosts. She doesn’t have too many friends amongst the living, but that’s all right. She has her books, she has her aunts, and she has her best friend, the ghostly Felix.
Then Pram meets Clarence, a boy from school who has also lost a parent and is looking for answers. Together they arrive at the door of the mysterious Lady Savant, who promises to help. But this spiritualist knows the true nature of Pram’s power, and what she has planned is more terrifying than any ghost.
Lauren DeStefano is beloved by critics and readers alike, and her middle grade debut is lyrical, evocative and not to be missed.
I adored this book! It's very John Green-esque in it's delivery in the sense that it has characters that are way too smart for their age and speak as if they were years older, but it works for this set-up because Pram and Clarence are both a little weird anyway. If Lauren DeStefano only wrote middle grade novels for the rest of her life, I would be totally satisfied.
This book is really dark for a middle grade, but I love darker novels so it's almost like it was written for me. The first page of this book is going to be very polarizing because it touches upon tough subjects that middle grade readers may not have encountered before. It'll cause them to ask questions and while some parents will welcome this others will not. So do keep that in mind. This tough subject is really only mentioned on the very first page and not brought up again, but it is integral to the plot and also the reasons why Pram can see ghosts so it cannot be ignored.
After the first page, it's very easy to love Pram and Felix. Pram is an adventurer at heart and naturally curious. Often eccentric because she can be found talking to herself when really she is talking to a ghost named Felix that nobody else can see, she's okay with it. But one day she makes a human friend in Clarence who has also lost a parent, and they set out to learn about them. Along the way they cross paths with the evil Lady Savant who sees more power in Pram than Pram is aware of. She makes the decision to lead Pram and Clarence on a crazy journey that would culminate in her stealing Pram's abilities. Oh, Lady Savant, I hate you so much.
Pram, Felix, Clarence...I love you guys too, too much.
To avoid spoiling too much of this awesome, crazy ghost adventure, I am going to skip to my thoughts about the ending. It was way too fast. The entire book is spent searching for something, learning about lost relatives, and preparing for this inevitable showdown with Lady Savant (even if they don't know it yet) and it went by so fast! I couldn't really tell you half of what happened because I would flip the page, a new paranormal scene would be over, I'd find myself going "wait, what?," and then flipping back to re-read it. That happened way too often at the end, and it's a huge bummer because DeStefano's exploration into ghosts and paranormal powers was really interesting and could have made the ending explode with a bang. Instead, it just left me scratching my head. A missed opportunity, for sure.
With that in mind, I really enjoyed this novel though. It was fun, dark, cute, and told powerful stories about friendships. The tale as a whole was satisfying, the ending just lacked the proper fleshing out that the first half of the tale received, but I can honestly say that Pram, Felix, and Clarence are characters worth remembering. If you're looking for a dark, fun, adventurous paranormal middle-grade that tackles tough subjects, this book is for you.
FTC Disclaimer: I did not receive any compensation of any kind in exchange for an honest review.