I normally don't like to read scary ghost stories. I am the type of person who covers my eyes during scary movies or better yet, stays away from them all together. But then I was fortunate to have the opportunity to read a digital ARC (provided by NetGalley) of Took: A Ghost Story by Mary Downing Hahn. And I am so glad that I did.
The author of this novel did a great job of creating characters that are authentic and believable as this family dealt with the horrifying disappearance of seven-year-old Erica. The main character, thirteen-year-old Daniel Anderson, is already coping with stressful circumstances: his father has lost his job, his family moved to a ramshackle farmhouse in the wilderness of West Virginia, and everyone at his new school is very unpleasant to him. There's a crazy legend about a ghost witch who lives on the hill in the woods with her vicious razorback hog, Bloody Bones.
As the family tries to adjust to their new home, Erica begins to withdraw from everyone and have whispered conversations with her lookalike doll. After Daniel and Erica have an argument in the woods about this doll, Erica runs off down the trail. Daniel tries to chase after her, but she gets away from him. When she doesn't return home, it's clear that she is missing.
The author builds suspense as the family and authorities search all over for Erica. It's starting to look like the local stories about "Auntie" (the witch) just might be the only explanation for Erica's disappearance. Daniel has to reach out to some pretty strange people for help.
I believe middle grade fans of spooky stories will enjoy this novel. I also think that kids will be able to relate to Daniel's frustration that the grownups in his life don't take him seriously and don't listen to him. "They were the grownups, the adults, the parents. They were in charge. They made the decisions."
I also appreciate that while this book is very suspenseful and spooky, it's still appropriate for the middle grade student. There is nothing over-the-top scary or violent that's going to be disturbing. I am looking forward to sharing copies of this in my fifth grade classroom library. And I won't be having nightmares about this book, myself!
Took: A Ghost Story by Mary Downing Hahn
Expected publication: September 15, 2015 by Clarion Books