"Ghosting" is accompanied by an interesting note, to wit - "This book is targeted for reluctant or struggling readers or children with dyslexia. The interest level is 11 and up while it is at a 4th grade reading level." I was intrigued by that description, and curious about what, if anything, would differentiate this book from more standard middle grade fare. The answer, for me, is that this book is a short, (really, it's a novella at most), intense, compelling read, written in a dynamic and straight forward style. This is a sophisticated book, not some sort of "chapter-book-lite", and it seems the main difference is that the narrative is stripped down, efficient, and effective. That's O.K. by me. It is not in any way condescending or "simple".
It seems that this book is aimed more at unmotivated or uninterested readers, or possibly kids who face social or family or similar pressures to not be readers or to not value reading. (As opposed to kids with actually learning disabilities, which is way beyond what I know about.) If that's the case, I am delighted to report that the solution offered here does not involve farts or boogers or frantic mayhem. There seem to be an awful lot of books out there recently that are based on the belief that boys, especially younger middle grade boys, will read books if there is enough simple-minded potty humor in them, and that girls will read anything with princesses or dreamy boy-toy vampires. I've read enough middle grade books to, with, and for kids to know that while potty humor and princesses have their places, there is a lot more going on in middle grader's heads than farting and choosing makeup.
So, what do you get with this book? (MILD SPOILER ALERT, IF YOU ARE VERY SENSITIVE ABOUT SPOILERS.) Well, Nat and Sandy are parentless, and are making their way by following in their deceased Mom's footsteps as a seance medium, (which she called "ghosting"). Sandy is the medium and younger brother Nat is her assistant. He is also the first person narrator of the story. The book opens with a very intense seance, which is followed up by an explanation from our narrator about the tricks of the trade. Later, the two siblings are drawn deeper and deeper into a seance with a creepy man, and apparently real ghostly doings spiral out of control from there.
This is an intense and compelling story. There is more violence and scary atmosphere than you'll ever find in a chapter book. I can understand why the publisher wants to get across the idea that the content is for an older crowd, even if the reading level is for a younger crowd. There isn't a great deal of character development, but the characters are as well drawn as most other middle grade characters. There isn't a lot of descriptive prose, but there is enough to set all of the scenes properly, and there are some nice, subtle and perceptive descriptive touches. (And as to that reading level, I have to say that I never got the feeling that anything had been oversimplified.)
So, this is a rewarding, well-constructed, satisfying, scary read. That's a fine and attractive package for me.
Please note that I received a free electronic copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a frank review.