A Curious Tale of the In-Between
by Lauren DeStefano
The Thing About Jellyfish
published on September 1st, 2015 by Bloomsbury USA Children’s
middle grade | horror | ghost story | mystery
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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.
A Curious Tale of the In-Between is a clever, quirky, tongue-in-cheek middle grade in the vein of Neil Gaiman’s beloved Graveyard Book or Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events. It’s the perfect read for a kid (or adult) who loves ghost stories.
I LOVED the atmosphere. The whole book is set in sort of an indistinct time. It feels sort of old, with hints of newness, and has a very quaint old British town feel to it. It’s darker than your typical kid’s book, beginning with the suicide of Pram’s mother and exploring all sorts of dreadful deaths. However, there’s still that feel of magical-ness and wonder that keeps the tone from veering too sorrowful. The writing is also quite beautiful, simple as you’d expect in a middle grade but very precise and witty.
I LOVED the characters. Pram is a precocious, strange child who’d give the Baudelaires a run for their money. She lives with her two fussy aunts in their old folks’ home and her best friend is a ghost, Felix. Felix himself is mischievous and sweet, and their relationship still has enough of childhood to feel innocent and undramatic. Pram’s new friend, Clarence, is exceptionally adorable, perhaps a bit extraordinarily poised for his age, and suitably tragic. And the dastardly medium has all the trappings of a whimsical villain.
I LIKED the plot. Perhaps this is my age showing, but there were definitely parts that I found over-the-top. There’s a lot of children going around by themselves and doing outlandish things. Then again, that was the hallmark of A Series of Unfortunate Events, so I think it’s just my expectations changing. For the most part, it’s a well-crafted ghostly mystery. Pram and Clarence go on a number of adventures in their attempt to contact Clarence’s dead mother, and find themselves in all sorts of trouble with an unscrupulous medium.
I LIKED layers of story. I’m such a fan when all the pieces of a story come together. While the search for Clarence’s mother is the main story, there are many layers of mystery, other ghosts and their tragic tales, that weave together throughout into a final, perfect tapestry. DeStefano does a great job of introducing loose ends in the beginning that you don’t necessarily think will come back–until they do, and then there’s that “Aha!” moment. All in all, it’s a quick, satisfying read.
I’m a font of useless knowledge and an endless source of sarcasm. Oh, and I guess I read, too.