Author: Sonia Gensler
Publisher: Knopf Books
Release Date: August 4th 2015
Genre: Middle Reader, Suspense, Mystery
Nothing ever happens on Avery’s grandmother’s sprawling farm, where she and her brother spend their summers. That is, until Avery meets Julian, a city boy with a famous dad, whose family is renting a nearby cottage. When Julian announces his plans to film a ghost story, Avery jumps at the chance to join him.
Unfortunately, Julian wants to film at Hilliard House, a looming, empty mansion that Grandma has absolutely forbidden her to enter. As terrified as Avery is of Grandma’s wrath, she finds the allure of filmmaking impossible to resist.
When the kids explore the secrets of Hilliard House, eerie things begin to happen, and the “imaginary” dangers in their movie threaten to become very real. Have Avery and Julian awakened a menacing presence? Can they turn back before they go too far?
My First Thoughts:
So I came across this book while I was on tumblr, killing time before class. It was a prize for an online raffle and I thought that I would enter my name for kicks; the worst that could happen was not getting a free book. I honestly didn’t read the synopsis, I just wanted the book based on the cover and that it wasn’t a super scary book. I didn’t mind that it was for younger readers, I thought that it would be refreshing to read for Halloween week!
In some ways, this book reminded me of To Kill a Mockingbird. The similarities are not very deep, for they occur in different time periods and deal with separate issues. However, both books are set in the South with important sibling arcs, Coming of Age themes, and learning to find the truth about a person before passing judgement. While To Kill a Mockingbird dealt with racial prejudice, Ghostlight dealt with uncovering the truth of family history and the consequences of lies and miss guided hate.
I absolutely loved the interactions between the two pairs of siblings, because in many ways they reminded me of my older brother and I. One of the smaller arcs in this book deals with two of the siblings getting disconnected and the steps they take (and some growing) to make amends and understand each other better. I also loved the interactions between Avery and Julian. There was no love or attraction; they became friends because no other children were around and they both wanted to create something. In some ways, Julian acted as a mentor to Avery, allowing her to broaden her creative horizons and discover things about herself. At the same time, Avery helped Julian understand the consequences of his decisions and their effects on other people.
Family history has always been interesting to me. I enjoy tracing back my family’s history and figuring out who I’m related to, where they came from, what they did and some of the major events in their lives. So I was excited to see family history playing a role in the story, a plot driver and character development driver. Uncovering the family history really did add an element of mystery that I was not expecting when I started reading this book. However, this added element really did make Ghostlight a unique read for me. It was interesting to read as Avery uncovered some of the recent history, first for the movie and then for curiosity and finding the actual truth. I think it’s clear to say that tracing back the history and the steps that were taken to get to the big reveal really helped Avery, and even her grandmother, grow as individuals.
In many ways, this book was a few firsts for me. Ghostlight was the first book that I read that had a mixed family, character(s) created in test tubes, and a mother in a powerful, well payed position. Each of these elements added to the story, allowing the readers to learn more and understand some of the characters and their actions. It is also the first book that I have read in which one of the characters has a mental illness, but is still portrayed as a normal, functional individual with odd quirks.
I’m getting sick of books portraying people with mental illnesses as being crazy, destructive, and abnormal individuals that can’t function properly and are a danger to society. I see it all the time in the media; I don’t need to read that kind of ignorance in my literature too. Ghostlight really shows that while some people with mental illness can be a danger to other people and themselves, most others are normal people who just have to take certain medication and see a therapist occasionally. In fact, the other characters don’t know about the illness until later, they just assumed that the character had odd quirks. (Sorry for the tiny soap box…)
All this talk and nothing about the ghost yet! I enjoyed that this book didn’t follow the typical paranormal horror story. There were a couple scenes in the book in which I was expecting something along the lines of The Exorcist to occur, however most of the paranormal/horror parts of the story were just spooky or eerie (which I honestly prefer more)! Overall, it was a fun suspenseful mystery with enough spooky seasoning to get me into the Halloween spirit without making me want to sleep with my bathroom light on!
For a story meant for younger readers, this book was pretty enjoyable. I would recommend it to anyone who loves spooky themes, but not full on demon possession and unleashing hell and damnation on the cast of characters. Even though the book may be intended for more of a 9-15 year old audience, I believe any age would enjoy Ghostlight. The themes and lessons in this story are ones that people of all ages need to learn, especially nowadays when society seems to be shifting so much because of discoveries in science and engineering. There were good lessons in letting go, learning to accept yourself and others, and the power that truth (or lies) has on a person’s life.
The list of characters was diverse and really did seem to model the people and families of current American society. This book had many firsts for me, like portraying a mixed family, character(s) born from test tubes, a mother who held a high paying, powerful job, and realistic character(s) with mental illness. I also enjoyed the Southern setting, because a lot of books that I have read with a ‘Southern’ setting just make it stereotypical and fake sounding. However, Ghostlight just drops little details here and there that remind you that the characters are in Tennessee.
At first, it was a little hard for me to get into the story because I’m not usually one for spooky books. However, it wasn’t long before I was flying through the pages and immersing myself into the story! Overall, this wasn’t a really scary book, although there was one scene that almost got me going. The characters were likable and modern, and the children were definitely relatable. The interactions between the characters were realistic and insightful, especially between the pairs of siblings. I loved that the story was set in Tennessee. The author didn’t bother with writing cheesy accents; instead she used idioms and colloquialisms of the area to really bring that part of the South alive. If you’re looking for a suspenseful mystery with enough spook to get your kids (or yourself) into the spirit of Halloween, then this book is just for you!