Review of Not Quite a Ghost

Not Quite a Ghost Not Quite a Ghost
by Anne Ursu
Intermediate, Middle School    Walden Pond/HarperCollins    288 pp.
1/24    9780062275158    $19.99
e-book ed.  9780062275172    $10.99

The transition to middle school is often a time of tumult, with the upheaval of old elementary school routines and friendships. But for eleven-year-old Violet Hart, the changes are even more far-reaching. Her blended family has just moved into a long-empty, ramshackle house, and her new bedroom is a creepy third-floor attic, wallpapered with twisting vines. After an upsetting sleepover with both old and potential new friends, Vi retires to her room feeling ill. She rides out her virus (she tests negative for COVID-19 and mono) but continues to be plagued by lingering exhaustion and brain fog. Her parents are proactive, but multiple doctors can’t find anything physically wrong and suggest that she is merely seeking attention or is in need of mental health counseling. Vivid nightmares, complete with tendrils from the wallpaper slithering down the wall and across the room, slow her recovery, demanding her attention. Ursu (The Troubled Girls of Dragomir Academy, rev. 9/21) maintains a light but decidedly eerie touch as she weaves her “not quite a ghost” story, in which the house itself becomes a character and slowly reveals its secrets. She simultaneously writes in a compelling way about difficult-to-diagnose, recurring illnesses. And just as with such conditions, there is no neat and facile wrap-up to the haunting narrative.

From the January/February 2024 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Luann Toth
Luann Toth

Luann Toth is a former reviews editor at School Library Journal. She holds an MLIS from the University of Pittsburgh.

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