Friday, July 21, 2017

Spirit Hunters (Book 1) by Ellen Oh

It’s early summer and Harper Raine, 12, isn’t very happy about the family’s move to Washington, DC. Older sister Kelly thinks the move is all Harper’s fault because of starting a fire at school and then having a terrible accident at Briarly, a psychiatric hospital, that left her with both arms broken and two broken ribs. Harper, however, has absolutely no memory of either event

The new house is unbearably hot because of broken air conditioning, except for 4 year-old MIchael’s room, which is unnaturally cold. And Michael claims to have made a new friend in his room named Billy that no one else can see. Slowly, Harper begins to see her brother change from a sweet, loving little boy to a mean, violent child who only wants to stay in his room with Billy. 

When Harper mets Dayo, a Jamaican girl who lives a few blocks away, they become instant friends. Days knows some of the odd history of Harper’s new house, and tells her it has always been considered to be haunted.

As something evil and malicious takes over Michael more and more, Harper and Dayo research on the house’s history and discover some really frightening information. And it helps when Harper reconnects with her old friend Rose, a ghost who lives in a family mirror, and who can help figure things out. At the same time, Harper begins to remember more details about the fire and her accident at Briarly. And she is beginning to see glimpses of Billy, the boy possessing her brother. But what can two 12 year-old girls and a sweet ghost do in the face of such evil?

Luckily, Harper’s estranged grandmother lives nearby and shows up suddenly.  Grandma Lee is a Korean mudang or shaman, and her belief and work in the spiritual world is what has alienated Mrs. Raine from her mother. She immediately accesses the situation with the house and especially with Michael, who by now is almost totally possessed by Billy. And she informs Harper that she too is a mudang, and it is up to her to exorcise the house and her brother. But does Harper’s understand her newly uncovered ability as a spirit hunter enough to go up against such a strong malevolence.

Spirit Hunters is a fast read simply because you can’t put it down, the need to know what happens next is just too great. Even though the story covers only 10 days, Oh manages to build the tension slowly, beginning with a playful insinuation of creepiness and working up to almost full scale horror. Some of the tropes she used are a bit cliché, like oozing, bleeding walls, or floating ghosts, but these by no means diminish the delicious pleasure of the story for fans of scary tales.

Oh's writing is friendly and pretty straight forward, but I liked that in-between the third person narrative are Harper’s first person journal entries. These allow the reader to directly know and understand what she is feeling and thinking, and which also slowly reveal the blocked events surrounding the fire at school and the accident at the psychiatric hospital as they resurface in Harper's memory.

And I liked the way Oh introduced Harper’s Korean identity on her mother’s side of the family (her father is clearly not Korean). In Spirit Hunters, Harper begins to explore more fully this part of who she is and, I hope, it will expand subsequent books in this new series. 

Spirit Hunters takes place in Washington DC and you couldn’t ask for a better ghost story location (except maybe New Orleans). There’s just something about those old homes, the sidewalks inlaid with bricks, and the heat and dense humidity of summer that can be cut with a knife that all just lends itself to a well-done scary story.

If you want a good hair-raising scare this summer, do pick up a copy of Spirit Hunters and enjoy.

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


  1. I hate horror movies but a ghostly story involving children is bound to be something I would enjoy.

  2. I've read the book
    It was my favorite in 4th grade
    I actually did a book report on it and I read a pretty dark paragraph to my class lol
    I would recommend this book to anyone who likes ghost stories, and suspence
    There's also a second book called "Spirit Hunters: The Island Of Monsters" if you were wondering :P


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