October 10, 2009
Rabid Reads "Haunted: The Ghost on the Stairs" by Chris Eboch
Title: Haunted (Book One) - The Ghost on the Stairs
Author: Chris Eboch
Publisher: Aladdin; an imprint of Simon & Schuster (2009)
Genre: Children's Fantasy/Mystery
Described as middle-grade fiction, I was almost embarrassed to read a new children's book. A foolish attitude, and I'm glad to say it only lasted a moment. I'm a kid at heart, and still like to read stories aimed at the young and young at heart. I first caught sight of this book when The Spectacle held a contest with the winner getting a copy of the book. I won. The story struck me as being up my alley, so I threw my name in the hat. And when I finally opened its pages to get started, I felt myself becoming a kid again.
It's a short read, as most books aimed at ten year olds, but it manages to pack quite a few punches. Apparently, earlier drafts had this story at half the length until an editor encourages Chris Eboch to lengthen it out in order to publish it as a full-on release. And since it's the first of a series of books, there is likely going to be a rhythm to how many of these Haunted books we see over the next couple of years and beyond.
The story is told through the eyes of Jon, a thirteen year old boy, as he joins his sister, Tania (eleven), and their mother and stepfather, Bruce, on a trip to a long reported haunting at a hotel in Colorado. Bruce hosts a ghost hunting show, aptly titled "Haunted," and has the kids' mother working as a production assistant. The kids don't believe in ghosts--their father is a skeptic and has passed the trait to them--but their mother has become evermore fascinated to the point of obsession with the paranormal ever since her youngest daughter, Angela, died. The untimely death tore the parents apart, but the kids seem to adapt easily enough to the traumatic events.
The real story starts up when Tania sees the ghostly figure of a young woman on the stairway of the hotel--the very spirit Bruce's show has come to document. She's the only one who sees it, however, and Jon is left to wonder if she's making it up, imagining it, or has truly seen a haunting. The mystery quickly comes to bear as the kids try to figure out the mystery of the unnamed "Ghost Bride," while Tania tries to avoid suffering the ill effects of close contact with the apparition, and Jon struggles between his loyalty to his sister and his own skepticism.
The kids' characters are fleshed out really well, and the relationship between the two comes off as very genuine, as do their connections with their parents and other guardians. There's a couple of cardboard characters that appear, but it's all forgivable given the page count and their supporting roles. And it's a kids book.
The mystery of who the Ghost Bride really is and why she haunts the hotel comes off as believable and easy to picture, which may be due to Eboch's experience with historical fiction and a sincere appreciation for the characters she creates. The solving of the mystery does seem a bit cut and dry once the kids get rolling, with the majority of the tension coming from trying to find time to sneak away from the grown-ups, or manipulate them to go where they want. It made me wonder how such a mystery could go unsolved for over a hundred years, but ghost stories are like that, and Eboch's eventual explanations quiet my incredulity.
I was never a fan of the Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, or the Bobsy Twins. But if Jon and Tania had been around in my youth, I would have hopped on board that bandwagon in an instance. This thirty-something isn't going to be a dedicated follower of the Haunted book series, but I'll be passing word of it along to my little cousins when they're looking for something to read. And, who knows, I'll probably pick up another one in time if I see it on a shelf somewhere ... or as part of another book contest.