The Second-Best Haunted Hotel on Mercer StreetFeatured
Twelve-year-old Willow Ivan’s family has run the Hotel Ivan for four hundred years. Through thick and thin, they’ve held on tight to their title as the Best Haunted Hotel on Mercer Street. That is, until the Hauntery—a corporate chain of haunted hotels—moves in down the street. As the Ivan’s business fades, so do their ghostly staff. And Willow begins to worry that The Ivan’s days are numbered.
Then Willow meets Evie, a Hauntery ghost who’s forced to play the part of a Spooky Little Girl even though she longs to be a Terrifying Phantasm. So when Willow offers her a job at The Ivan, Evie accepts—but she doesn’t tell Willow that she’s still working for The Ivan’s competition, for fear of losing her new job and friend.
Together, the girls come up with a plan to save The Ivan. But with The Ivan ghosts already fading and Evie’s secret threatening to come out, will it be too late?
The Second-Best Haunted Hotel on Mercer Street is a humorous and fun family-and-friendship focused novel. The incorporation of how ghosts fit into the world was clever and understandable without being too detailed. Hotel Ivan has more ghosts on staff than living humans, and each staff member has a unique personality, like Pierce the concierge and Chef Antonia. What adds strong emotional depth to the story is Willow's mother, now a recently deceased ghost who isn't like the other ghosts. Willow is not only grieving the loss of her mother and the absence of her father, but is also trying to convince herself that her mom is only just adjusting to being a ghost and not a WISP (a ghost who isn't fully aware of what's happening and usually fades within a year).
Contrasting to Willow's situation, Evie still has her parents (ghosts, but not WISPs, like herself) who love her, but only see one specific future for her, which is different than what Evie wants for herself. Evie's journey in learning to stand up for herself is moving and nuanced, as is her growing friendship with Willow.
The Second-Best Haunted Hotel on Mercer Street is a heart-warming story with all the spooks but none of the scares, making this a good selection for readers who love the spirit of Halloween but shy away from the horror genre.
This was a fun romp, but not really very scary, making it perfect for elementary students who want to read about ghosts and their antics, but has enough meat in it that middle school readers who want a book with magical realism will enjoy as well. There's no dearth of haunted house books around, but the fresh spin of working at a haunted hotel will appeal to readers of books like Poblocki's A House of Stone Throw's Island, Paquette's Rules for Ghosting, Salerni's Eleanor and the Roosevelt Ghosts, and Currie's A Peculiar Incident on Shady Street, who are too young for the glorious horror of Alender's The Dead Girls of Hysteria Hall or Bell's Frozen Charlotte.