Review Detail

Kids Fiction 319
Perfect for fans of Victoria Schwab's City of Ghosts
Overall rating
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Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
Karma Moon loves living with her dad in their New York neighborhood, answering phone calls for his Totally Rad documentary film group, and anything woo-woo. She only wishes her mom would come back home instead of being in Florida with some man. When Karma's dad gets the chance of a lifetime to make a docuseries on a famous haunted hotel in Colorado, they fly out as soon as they can. Karma is excited for her dad, but a haunted hotel isn't an easy place to try to let go of her what-ifs. As the pressure mounts for Totally Rad to capture a ghost on film in order to get a second season (and a paycheck), Karma, her best friend, Mags, and a local boy, Nyx, to find out just what's actually going on at the hotel and who the mysterious lady is they keep seeing...

What I Loved:
-The spooks: MG horror is one of my favorite genres, and KARMA MOOD: GHOST HUNTER absolutely delivers on the spooks. Every time a candle blew out, the lights flickered, or something hard to explain happened, I got chills down my spine. There is a clear respect and appreciation for horror in general, as it mentions several horror staples like The Poltergeist and The Shining, as well as some of Harry Houdini's lesser known history.

-The anxiety representation: Karma calls anxiety a "case of the what-ifs." She also mentions going to therapy. It's not super common to see anxiety representation in middle grade, especially middle grade horror, but Melissa Savage handles it authentically and compassionately.

What Left Me Wanting More:
-The poor fat representation: The two characters described as fat, Mr. Plum and Paul, are both antagonists. In particular, Mr. Plum is used for several instances of degrading body humor. This is sadly common to find in middle grade books, and KARMA MOON is no exception. Mr. Plum (and Paul, though he's only mentioned briefly) have more than enough negative actions to show they aren't the good guys and choosing to equate their fatness with their badness is a harmful stereotype.

-Aspects of the "woo-woo": In general, I love Karma's spirituality. She's always consulting a type of magic 8 ball, she wears crystals for courage, and she and Mags get into hilarious debates on spirituality. However, there are several missed opportunities to reflect on and respect the spirituality of other cultures. There are a couple of instances of the term "juju" and the practice of smudging that don't mention the cultures from where they originate and are most widely used. Given that there is a real world, significant problem of cultural appropriation in some spiritual practices, this was especially concerning. These instances only make up a small portion of the book, but they are issues that could have easily been fixed, altered, or taken out all together.

Overall, KARMA MOON: GHOST HUNTER is a spooky, haunted ride with themes of family, "true blue" friends, and finding bravery within yourself. Fans of Victoria Schwab's CITY OF GHOSTS will likely enjoy the set up of a docuseries in a famously creepy location, though I would recommend content warnings on the two issues described above.
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