Here’s a super-creepy book by We Need Diverse Books founder Ellen Oh for those who want to hang on to that Halloween feeling. Or maybe just like reading stories of haunted houses.
Spirit Hunters by Ellen Oh. HarperCollins, 2017.
Harper is unhappy. She doesn’t like that her family has moved to a D.C. suburb from New York City, where she could get good bagels and had a therapist who was helping her try to recover some memories she’s missing. She hates that she has missing memories. She hates that her older sister, Kelly, blames her for everything unpleasant in their life. She hates the old house they’ve moved into, way too hot in her bedroom and unpleasantly cold in her little brother Michael’s, even though the air conditioning isn’t working.
I might have expected not to like Harper, what with her journaling lists of things that she hates alternating with regular chapters. But it’s clear from the beginning that Harper is right to be concerned about her new house – starting when Michael’s new but invisible friend Billy knocks Michael’s ice pop out of his hands because there isn’t one for Billy. And as Harper starts to remember more of her own past, it’s clear that things have been going wrong about her for a long, long time.
Harper is also not one to just sit around complaining. She makes friends with a neighbor girl, Dayo, whose mother shares her delicious baking and Jamaican cooking with Harper. Even though Dayo can’t see any ghosts, she’s heard that Harper’s house is haunted and encourages Harper to find out what exactly is going wrong as things escalate to the point that Harper winds up in the hospital with stitches, not for the first time. Harper will need to reconnect with the Korean grandmother her own mother cut off contact with five years earlier, and find the courage to fight against increasingly violent ghosts in the face of her immediate family’s doubt.
The ghosts here were creepy enough that I started thinking I maybe shouldn’t be reading this at bedtime (I am a wimp with this sort of thing), and the plot took some pleasantly unexpected turns. At the same time, Harper goes through a lot of personal growth, learning to make a real friend and reconnecting with her family. There are also some short but moving scenes of characters dealing with prejudice. This could be a good one for fans of Jonathan Stroud’s Lockwood & Co. series – it is a notch scarier than A Properly Unhaunted Place. I loved it anyway.