Evie Von Rathe lives with her aunt Desdemona in the seventh most haunted town in America – Blight Harbor. Desdemona is Blight Harbor’s local paranormal expert. Living with Desdemona (“Des”) has been an interesting experience and pleasant enough, And Des hasn’t had too many rules for Evie, the main one being “Stay away from the abandoned slaughterhouse at the edge of town” (as if Evie had any interest in being in an abandoned slaughterhouse!). The ghost of John Jeffrey Pope – a serial killer who hunted in the streets of Blight Harbor a hundred years ago – is said to dwell in the space.
But when Des goes into that building and doesn’t return, Evie knows it will be up to her to get her aunt back – if she can even find her!
But John Jeffrey Pope isn’t the only strange creature to exist in the shadows of the slaughterhouse. Evie meets The Clackity – an unusual creature that seems to live in more than one reality – a bridge between worlds. Evie strikes a bargain with The Clackity – it will help Evie get Des back and Evie will deliver the ghost of John Jeffrey Pope to The Clackity. A fair bargain it would seem to 13 year old Evie.
The journey through unchartered worlds will have Evie encounter witches and ghosts and even a memory-thief, while alternately looking for and avoiding Pope, who wants to add Evie to his collection of souls. Evie will also amass a weird collection of items that may prove key to getting Des back.
This middle grade novel is a delightfully eerie read. Take some of the darkest parts of the Harry Potter books, put them in a Neil Gaiman-style world, add a Bruce Coville-like impish charm, and we get close to describing the adventure of The Clackity.
Like many YA and Middle Grade books, we’re set up with a protagonist of approximately the readers’ age and with a perhaps unusual amount of freedom to do as they please (usually because the parents are out of the picture). The adult ‘in charge’ is quirky but loveable and will either a) need the protagonist’s help , or b) be a follower on the adventure (in this case, ‘a’).
The adventure here is solid and it’s more than just a little spooky – at times quite frightening – which is what the readership is looking for,
The characters of Evie and Des are clear but I would have liked something a little more solid about Pope (pun in tended) and The Clackity. Both are integral to the story but less well defined for me. This means it’s the adventure that drives the story, not the characters. Perhaps just right for a middle grade audience.
I enjoyed it this and I think a following will develop for Evie and Des in Blight Harbor. Being the seventh-most haunted city in America should mean there’s plenty more adventure possibilities.
(Also… I love middle grade and YA books that contain a few pages of artwork. The pictures included in my ARC have a great Charles Addams-ness about them.)
Looking for a good book? The Clackity by Lora Senf is a dark, eerie adventure for young readers that will still scare the pants off a few adults.
I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.
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author: Lora Senf
publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers
hardcover, 288 pages