Not Quite a Ghost

HarperCollins/Walden Pond. Jan. 2024. 288p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9780062275158.
Gr 4-8–Violet’s new house has the space her growing family needs, but as soon as they move in, the house feels odd and lonely. Violet’s older sister Mia declares the attic room with the peeling yellow wallpaper to be “creepy,” so by default, that room becomes Violet’s. Violet is dealing with a lot of personal issues, including nervously starting middle school, and it doesn’t help when she gets sick the first week of school. When she’s finally able to return, she’s too tired for PE class, so she’s sent to study in the library. There she meets a boy named Will who regularly sits out PE due to health reasons. He’s researching ghosts and hauntings for a science credit, which Violet finds fascinating. She wants to help her new friend with his project, but her illness returns and she isn’t getting better. Visits to multiple doctors lead nowhere, and she ends up homebound in her attic room. The vines on the yellow wallpaper seem to be moving now, and she thinks she sees the shape of a girl trapped beneath them. She’s terrified, both of the girl, and her mysterious illness. Loosely based on Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s 1892 short story “The Yellow Wallpaper,” this is a story about a haunted house—but it’s also a fresh, modern look at unexplained health issues, COVID-19 anxiety, changing friendships, and blended families.
VERDICT Compulsively readable and relatable, Ursu’s twisty middle grade novel is highly recommended.

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