Tuesday, September 8, 2015

A Curious Tale of the In-Between by Lauren DeStefano

Pram (short for Pragmatic) Bellamy, 11, has lead a rather sheltered life living with her two practical aunts, Dee and Nan, at the Halfway to Heaven Home for the Ageing (that's right, ageing), a retirement home they ran.  Pram is home schooled there and excels in all her subjects.  But the only friend her own age that she has is Felix, a ghost who inhabits a tree near the pond on the home's property.  Felix is a lot of fun, but no one else can see him.  In fact, Pram has the ability to see ghosts all the time.

One September morning, a Ms. Appleworth shows up to check on Pram's schooling.  Not happy with what she finds, she insists that Pram should now go to the local school.  Pram isn't happy, but she goes.  On her first day, she meets Clarence Blue, and although the two get off on the wrong foot, they end up being friends in a very short time.

It turns out that Clarance's mother has passed away and he wants to contact her spirit.  Pram, whose mother was also dead, does not know who her father is and decides she wants to find out about him.  The two go to a shady spiritualist, Lady Savant, down an creepy alley in town.  Lady Savant isn't much help for Clarance, but she does sense something special about Pram, something she wants very badly.

Pretty soon, Pram is having strange dreams and sleepwalking to Lady Savant.  And Pram notices that she is forgetting things that she normally has no trouble remembering.  One night, she sleepwalks to Lady Savant's and finds herself being held captive by this strange spiritualist.  Soon, Pram has forgotten who Felix and Clarence are, but Felix hasn't forgotten his only friend.  Felix, who knows what's happening, is the only one who can help Pram, but he's a ghost that Clarance can't see.  How can Felix reach Clarance to alert him to what's happened to Pram?

A friend of mine used the word bizarre to describe A Curious Tale of the In-Between to me, but I didn't find that to be a very apt adjective.  I'm not even sure I would say it's creepy, despite being about the space in-between life and death, inhabited by the dead who haven't move on, and a place that, because of the circumstances of her birth, Pram can be in.  Nothing in that realm was dealt with in such a threatening or sinister manner that readers in the younger range of middle grade who find disturbing or the cause of night frights.

However, I did find it a nice story about a strong protagonist, a valuable friendship (of this world and beyond), and interesting characters (even Lady Savant, who I will admit is somewhat creepy, but more cruel and who has her own sad story, so you end up feeling empathic towards her, anyway).  

A Curious Tale of the In-Between is the first book in a series which should prove to be very interesting and I can't help but wonder if we are really finished with Lady Savant in this first novel.  A lot of time is spent at the beginning of the novel introducing readers to probable recurring characters, familiarizing them with the setting, and necessary backstories, so it was a little slow going at first, but once the main action of the story, the story was a real page-turner.

There's been a lot of buzz about A Curious Tale of the In-Between and I can certainly understand why.  This is a nice story for anyone who enjoys ghost stories, likable heroines, and good plotting.  I'm already looking forward to Pram and Clarance's next adventure in the in-between.

This book is recommended for readers age 9+
This book was an EARC received from NetGalley

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