I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.A Curious Tale of the In-Between by Lauren DeStefano
Also by this author: Wither
Series: Pram #1
Published by Bloomsbury Publishing USA on September 1st 2015
Genres: Young Adult, Family, Parents, Fantasy & Magic, Social Issues, Death & Dying, Paranormal
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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.
New York Times bestselling author Lauren DeStefano is beloved by critics and readers alike, and her middle grade debut is lyrical, evocative and not to be missed.
I love love love when authors branch out and write in new and different genres. Sure, there is something to be said for really nailing down a genre and becoming a master. But sometimes, there’s this fresh new perspective when authors put their keyboards and pens to something new. I found this to be the case with Lauren DeStefano’s middle grade debut, A Curious Tale Of The In-Between which is much different from her Chemical Garden series (read my review of WITHER here).
A Curious Tale Of The In-Between seems to be the beginning of a new middle grade series, at least according to the parenthesis after the title on goodreads. It is the story of Pram, a little girl, who can see and talk with ghosts. Pram is a very precocious young child. She lives with her two aged aunts in the retirement home that they run. Her aunts aren’t exactly the lovey dovey hugs and kisses type, but it is very clear that they cherish Pram and worry about her. In fact, as the book opens we learn that Pram has been homeschooled and seems to be much smarter than her peers. However, a social worker comes along and says that Pram must go to school because she is lacking in social skills.
So, Pram goes to school and makes precisely one friend, Clarence. Pram and Clarence have one thing in common – loss. Both are missing their mothers. Pram’s died while she was born and Clarence’s mother died in a car accident. Pram reveals that she can speak with and talk to ghosts to Clarence. Clarence, missing his mother so much, decides to ask Pram to help him talk with her again. She accompanies him throughout town to meet with different spiritualists who are all shams. While this is going on, Pram decides she wants to find her father and receives an invitation from a Lady Savant, who promises Pram this. What unfolds is adventure and thrills and maybe a bit of learning and self discovery along the way.
I think by now if you are a regular reader of Good Books & Good Wine you know how I feel about precocious children. I pretty much love them all. Thus, it stands to reason that I enjoyed Pram Bellamy as a protagonist in Lauren DeStefano’s A Curious Tale of The In-Between. Pram has this tenacity to keep going which I really liked. She does feel bad for herself at moments and blames herself for her mother’s death, even though she is not at fault. This is a thing that we are let in on as readers, but is held back from Pram by her aunts. I loved Pram’s friendship with this ghost boy whose name is slipping my mind. I also loved her friendship with Clarence. She’s the sort of person who does not need a huge circle of friends but is content with a few close friends — at least that is the impression that I got. I guess I just really loved how she was smart and fierce and willing to do what it took to make her friend Clarence happy as well as for her self, to find her father. She is great is all I am trying to say.
Lauren DeStefano excels at building worlds, even worlds that are like our own but with ghosts that only little girls like Pram can see. Not everyone can see what Pram sees and so she has learned and been conditioned to keep it a secret. I actually liked that people did not entirely indulge Pram because this feels more true to life. If someone tells me that they see ghosts, no joke, I will tilt my head and look at them like they are on something. I loved that she didn’t see every person who died ever, but only people who lingered behind for one reason or another. It’s interesting to me that she never sees her mother or Clarence’s mother. The reasons within are good too.
ALSO! There is a villain and goodness, chills. Okay so have you seen Hocus Pocus? You know how the Sanderson Sisters consume the souls of children to stay young and beautiful? THAT IS KIND OF LIKE LADY SAVANT. She consumes the powers of those who have more power than her in order to maintain her ability to commune with ghosts. She is awful and horrible and at the same time, you kind of feel a bit bad for her. You guys, I swear, Lauren DeStefano wins the award when it comes to drawing complex and interesting villains. I adored just how creeped out I was by Lady Savant as an adult. I can’t imagine how off she must feel to an actual kid reading this book.
A Curious Tale Of The In-Between is a charming and at turns dark middle grade book. There are mentions of suicide contained within. And yet, I think it is important to note that this book doesn’t shy away from that issue. It does not sugarcoat the world. I love this. I love how honest it feels, even as it is a story about a girl who can talk to ghosts and her developing friendship. I love that it delves into feelings of loneliness and not belonging. I love that the reader isn’t safe the entire time reading it, but that it goes to dark places. I just think this book felt so real and have to extend kudos to DeStefano for writing it.