Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Joe Quinn's Poltergeist by David Almond, illustrated by Dave McKean

**Contains Spoilers**
Joe Quinn's Poltergeist by David Almond,
illustrated by Dave McKean
Candlewick Press, 2019, 80 pages
While watching his crush, Josephine Minto, playing tennis, his friend Joe Quinn comes along and tells Davie and another friend Geordie that his house in haunted by a poltergeist. Naturally, both boys are skeptical but curious. After all, Joe and his mother are known for making up stories. But Joe insists that the poltergeist is real and invites Davie and Geordie to come over for tea and see for themselves.

Sure enough, when they get to Joe's house, they see a broken window and bits of broken cups and plates all over the kitchen. While they are eating the chips that Mrs. Quinn serves them, a slice of bread with butter flies across the room, followed by more crockery. Geordie is convinced that Joe and his mother are making things sail across the room, and refuses to believe that there is a ghost. Davie, on the other hand, isn't so sure, and Mrs. Quinn is certain that he can also feel strange forces in the house.

Davie may be susceptible to her suggestions. His younger sister Barbara, with whom he was close, had died a few years ago and he's never really come to terms it that and, additionally, with his faith. And lately, he has been dreaming about Barbara and wondering whether her spirit could ever come back.

Later, Joe returns to the Quinn's house, bringing Father Kelly, an Irish priest who has already lost his religion, with him. Ironically, after spending time at the home of Mrs. Quinn, and despite his inebriated state and lack of faith, Father Kelly, manages to give to help Davie find some peace of mind when he tells him "There is not Heaven to go to. And no Hell...There's only us, and this...But what an usness and a thisness." Ultimately, Davie concludes that there is no poltergeist, but that "...the poltergeist is all of us, raging and wanting to scream and to fight and to start flinging stuff; to smash and to break. It is all of us wanting to be still, to be quiet, to be in love, to be at peace." Usness and thisness?

What do I think?

I first read Joe Quinn's Poltergeist in a book of short autobiographical stories by David Almond called Half a Creature from the Sea. I found it interesting, but now as a graphic novel, I find it even more so. It is a story about the existential angst of a teenager asking for answers to questions about life and afterlife, and Almond captures his inner turmoil so well. And leaves it to the reader to decide if Davie's conclusions are right, or maybe we each have our own conclusions about these questions.

Click to Enlarge
I think, however, what really removes this book from being an exception short story in prose and puts it into the realm of wonderfully dark graphic novels are the illustrations. As you can see, Dave McKean's angular mix-media illustrations are as haunting and emotional throughout the book as is the illustration on the cover.

David Almond has always been a favorite of mine and this story, that borders on horror, has not failed my expectations one bit. The short story is worth reading (and re-reading as I recently did) and so is the graphic novel. The different formats almost make each one feel like a different story.

This book is recommended for readers age 13+
This book was an EARC received from Candlewick Press through NetGalley

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