This is the book that won the Cybils award for Middle Grade Speculative Fiction this year, reviewed in brief because this week is shaping up to be crazy.
The Screaming Staircase. Lockwood & Co. Book 1. by Jonathan Stroud. Disney-Hyperion. 2013.
Recently, England has been having Troubles with ghosts. Suddenly, they are everywhere, and lethal. Only kids can see them, and thus fight them, however, putting teens in demand as ghost-hunting agents. Lucy Carlyle joins one such organization, Lockwood & Co., headed by the charismatic Anthony Lockwood – only to discover that the company is on the brink of bankruptcy and disgrace. When one of her first missions with the team winds up with Lucy in possession of a locket haunted by the spirit of a murdered girl and the house it was found in burning down, things heat up even more. (eeks! Pun!)
This alternate-history story has a plot that keeps going like a rollercoaster, characters I could believe in, and is creepily atmospheric as all get-out. There’s something to appeal to all types of readers here – at least if the cover looks appealing in the first place. I was glad to be reading it on my work breaks rather than before bed at home, because it is scary – while none of the three members of our team die, there’s a fairly high body count over all. I think it’s still too intense for my nine-year-old, but this is perfect for older middle grade to teen reader looking for spooky, edge-of-the-seat suspense.