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Family focused ghost story with heart
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Willow Ivan loves her family's haunted hotel, Hotel Ivan. Since her mother died, however, things haven't been the same. Suddenly, her dad is quiet and distant, and she's the one in charge of keeping the hotel going. To make matters worse, a new Hauntery hotel is opening down the street and is a huge threat to their business. Meanwhile at the Hauntery, one of their newly hired ghosts, Evie, is struggling too. Her family wants her to continue being the Spooky Little Girl, but she wants to be something more. When Willow and Evie's paths cross, Willow hires Evie to work at the Hotel Ivan on a quest to save it, but Evie keeps her status at the Hauntery a secret. With so much on the line, Willow will have to dig deep and learn to trust those around her if she wants to save her home.

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.
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