My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
Publication Date: September 1st 2015
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens
Point of View: 3rd Person & Alternative
Recommended Age: 10+
Genres & Themes: Middle Grade, Paranormal, Ghosts, Family, Friendship
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.
Oh, middle grade books. They can be so lovely, can’t they? They can enchant you, entertain you, make you smile or make you laugh. All of the above, perhaps.
I didn’t know what I was to expect with this one. After all, Lauren DeStefano doesn’t write the most common of stories… which is something that I quite like about her. She’s full of ideas, that’s for sure. A Curious Tale of the In-Between is, indeed, a curious tale. It also reads like one.
This novel reminded me of how I could never outgrow middle grade books. Sure, I don’t read them often, and I don’t like every one of them, but there’s something inside them that I don’t always get in young adult or adult books… something pure, charming and magic. But this story, it is also one readers can relate to and sympathize with its characters, especially Bram.
Pram is looking for her father. Her mother died giving birth to her, and she’s convinced – likes to think – that her father does not even know she exists and that, when she finds him, he will help her discover herself a little more and better. When her aunts send her to school, she befriends Clarence whom is looking for the ghost of her mother… And, so, their paths are linked and, together, they will have to face dangers in order to find their lost love ones.
I forgot to mention: Pram sees ghosts, an ability only a rare amount if people possess. Meaning, she’s valuable, and if her secret is discovered, she might not be safe anymore. I’ve always had this huge interest for ghosts. No wonder my favourite television series, when I was little, used to be Ghost Whisperer. I love the atmosphere ghosts/spirits bring to a story: slightly gloomy and oh so mysterious. A Curious Tale of the In-Between dared. It was borderline creepy at moments. Sometimes it didn’t even feel like a middle grade book, yet it was never scary. I think this has to do a lot with the maturity of the characters, because they were extremely so.
Thank goodness. We need more characters like Pram and Clarence and Felix – her ghost friends – in books directed to a young audience. It is not true that every twelve, eleven, ten-year-old lacks maturity and jumps around all day. When I was twelve, like Bram, I was (and still am) very calm, a good listener and ponderer, and you would often see me quietly reading a book in some quiet corner. I connected to Pram. I connected so much to her. I’ve lost a family member, too, when I was a baby, so I could understand her struggles.
Trust me, if you’re a reader of the middle grade genre or would like to try one, if you can’t stay away from family or ghost stories, or if you admire Lauren DeStefano peculiar yet enthralling stories, this is a novel I wouldn’t recommend you disregard.
P.S. At times, this is reminiscent of The Year of Shadows which is another middle grade ghost story strongly dealing with grief, family and friendship as themes. Only, the main reason why I didn’t enjoy it as much as this one is because of the fact that this is a fast-paced story while The Year of Shadows is slow-kill-me-now paced and stretches to no end.