Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Review: A Curious Tale of the In-Between by Lauren DeStefano

A Curious Tale of the In-Between by Lauren DeStefano
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Series: Yes, #1 in the Pram series
Release date: September 1st, 2015
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Length: 240 pages
Source: ARC from BEA
Rating: Magical, creepy, and lovely

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.

Ooh, I quite enjoyed reading this book. It's precisely the sort of middle grade I was utterly obsessed with when I was middle grader myself: creepy and mystical and morbid and precious, all at once. (Plus there's a little baby MG ship, GO SHIP GO SAIL SHIP SAIL. Middle grade ships just GET to me, I don't know why. Maybe because they're so precious and pure). Perhaps the characters are a touch bland, but it suited the atmosphere and style of this book, which was lovely. Slightly macabre, slightly wondrous, all delightful.

This book is about Pram, a girl born under very macabre circumstances who can see the dead. She's very much a fish out of water. She's never gone to school, she's never known her parents, she lives with her two spinster aunts in the nursing home they run, and her only friend is a ghost boy named Felix. Her aunts used to turn a blind eye to little Pram seemingly talking to herself all the time, but now that she's older, she has to stop playing with her "invisible friend" and fit in at school, which makes more Pram very sad, because she's often more comfortable with ghosts.

It's hard being a little baby ghost-seer-person-type

When she starts attending school for the first time, she makes fast friends with the (adorable) Clarence (SHIPSHIPSHIP I'm such a creepy adult), and the two of them decide to unravel the mysteries of Pram's father and contact Clarence's recently deceased mother. The friendship feels. This book is all about lost kids who feel out of step with the world finding each other and feels, squishy feels in my heart place. There's a timeless quality to this book, too, since it takes place in the past but it's not entirely clear when or where (though I'd make a guess that it's...the fifties? IDK) but that just lends to the haunting, magical quality of the book. There's so much ATMOSPHERE. It's creepy yet wonderful and sad yet tender, and the writing is gorgeous. Together, the kids (both alive and dead) encounter all sorts of darkness and violence and horrible things.


I'm very fickle nowadays about the middle grade that grabs me (since I'm no longer a middle grader, and all, and many middle grades just aren't written for me), but like I said, ACTotIB is the kind that speaks to me. It reminds me a bit of the Eva Ibbotson books I read as a kid with a more Coraline bent. Like I hinted at above, the characters aren't overflowing with personality, but they really are precious. I'd definitely recommend this as a great October read, being CREEPY AF, especially for horror wimps like me, or for people who, like Pram, agree that the dead can be far less frightening than the living.


Also, not that this matters much, but the actual book itself is GORGEOUS. Seriously. Even the ARC is all velvety with gold letters, and inside there are all these pretty leaf designs everywhere. This book is a visual treat. 

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