Review Detail

Kids Fiction 1586
Atmospherically Creepy Mystery
Overall rating 
 
4.0
Plot/Characters/Writing Style 
 
4.0
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable) 
 
N/A
Harper's family moves from New York City to Washington, D.C. and end up in a decrepit old house. Harper has had problems at school-- she was accused of setting fire to the art room, and was hospitalized for some time, but she doesn't remember any of it. She notices that her four-year-old brother Michael's room feels oddly clammy, and he claims to have a "new friend" named Billy who tells him things that cause him to have headaches. Harper does manage to meet a neighbor girl, Dayo, so she has someone to help her investigate when things get odd. Harper has two bad accidents in one week; she is pushed down the stairs, and also cuts herself on an old metal fire truck. Dayo does some online investigating and finds out some very creepy things about the house, and Harper reconnects with her own "imaginary" friend Rose who inhabits an antique mirror. Things escalate with Michael, and Harper's estranged grandmother finally visits the family and not only helps Harper but gives her the surprising news that she is a spirit hunter who can communicate with ghosts. Grandma Lee is a mudang, a shaman who has worked with the spirit world for a long time, which is the source of the rift between her and Harper's mother. Can Harper save her brother, make the house safe, and come to terms with her inherited skills?
Good Points
No wonder middle school students don't want to move! All of the houses people move into are haunted! Readers need to look no further than the works of Betty Ren Wright and Mary Downing Hahn to know that, but Spirit Hunters puts an interesting, multigenerational twist on the trope.

Additional fun aspects of this book include a benevolent ghost friend, an unexplained hospitalization, and a grandmother with interesting skills. Add to this standard family dynamics (busy older sister, young brother who requires babysitting), supportive and involved parents and a new best friend whose mother is a chef, and this was a fantastic story about ghosts, family, and figuring out personal identity. Really enjoyed this one.

It's hard to find deliciously creepy ghosts from other cultural backgrounds, and Oh's incorporation of Korean traditions is a welcome addition to the growing number of multicultural books. Include this book with other creepy stories from other cultures, including Baptiste's The Jumbies (Trinidadian), Kelly's The Land of the Forgotten Girls or Torres and Elbert's Lola: A Ghost Story (Philippines), San Souci's Haunted Houses collection of stories from around the world, and Rhodes' Bayou Magic.
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