Karma Moon: Ghost HunterFeatured
Karma Moon is a firm believer in everything woo-woo, as her dad calls it. So when she asked her trusty Magic Eight Ball if the call asking her dad to create a ghost-hunting docuseries was her dad's big break, it delivered: No doubt about it. Because the universe never gets it wrong. Only people do.
Karma and her best friend, Mags, join her dad's Totally Rad film crew at a famous haunted hotel in Colorado over her spring break. Their mission: find a ghost and get it on camera. If they succeed, the show will be a hit, they can pay rent on time, and just maybe, her mom will come back.
Unfortunately, staying at a haunted hotel isn't a walk in the park for someone with a big case of the what-ifs. But her dad made Karma the head of research for the docuseries, so she, Mags, and a mysterious local boy named Nyx must investigate every strange happening in the historically creepy Stanley Hotel. Karma hopes that her what-ifs don't make her give up the ghost before they can find a starring spirit to help their show go viral--and possibly even get them a season two.
With Melissa Savage's quirky cast of characters and spooky setting underlaid by a touching and relatable struggle against anxiety and grief over her fractured family, Karma Moon--Ghosthunter is bound to charm and delight.
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.