The Haunted House Project
By Tricia Clasen
E-book, 228 pages
2016, Sky Pony Press
ISBN: 9781510707122 (hardcover)
Andie’s family has fallen apart in the wake of her mother’s death. Her father has retreated to casinos and bars, jobless and barely able to buy groceries. Her sister Paige spends most of her time picking up extra shifts at the diner in order to pay bills. Andie feels isolated from her friends and doesn’t feel the group therapy class she takes through school is doing her any good. But when she’s given a chance to study paranormal activity for a science project, she gets the idea to haunt her own house, in hopes that reminders of her mother will bring her family back together.
This is a powerful, well-written story about grief, self-preservation, family and hope. This is a hard review for me to write, because I just want to gush about the book, but I also want you to understand that it was really good and I think everyone should read it.
While still dealing with the tragedy of her mother’s death, Andie is finding it hard to cope with school and friends, and even harder to cope with her home life – if you could even call it that anymore. Her friends don’t understand her loss and at times cannot bear Andie’s sadness. Many people are distant from Andie and while they ask how she’s doing, she knows they don’t truly want to hear – instead they want her to smile and say she’s alright. Andie does this most days, but realizes she is barely getting by in life.
After her science project starts her on a path of researching paranormal activity and how people believe ghosts may communicate with the living, Andie gets the idea to haunt her own house. She starts by spraying her mother’s old perfume in subtle places, hoping it will spark memories in her sister and father and bring the three of them together. She eventually moves to written messages and gets different reactions from her sister and father.
While she struggles to pull her family back together, Andie is losing her grip on her friends. Two of them are distant while the third has become a bit of a mean girl, who is mainly focused on becoming popular and no longer concerned with the feelings of her friends. Andie instead finds friendship in her socially awkward, brutally honest, but caring science partner, as well as a girl in group therapy who is known for punching people. But even this isn’t easy, as Andie faces the stigma of hanging out with the “geeks” instead of the “normal kids” and she finds herself having to choose between old and new.
I think Clasen does an excellent job of capturing the struggles of middle-schoolers as they navigate towards high school and the way people change as they become teenagers. She also handles grief excellently and I felt like Andie’s project on her family was realistic, both in her methods and the results.
I’m feeling like I’m not doing this book justice. I just…I think you should read it! If you’re interested in contemporary middle-grade or looking for something that’s both sad and uplifting (feels!), I highly recommend The Haunted House Project.
I received this book for free from Sky Pony Press in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review. All opinions in this post are my own.
You can visit Tricia’s website here.