Laura Ruby, . . HarperCollins, $16.99 (258pp) ISBN 978-0-06-051829-5
Sharp-witted narrative and lively characterizations help compensate for the convoluted and somewhat overstuffed plot of this contemporary first novel about a 13-year-old girl's run-in with ghosts. The haunting begins shortly after Lily and her recently jilted single mother move into Great Uncle Wesley's now empty oceanside estate in Cape May, N.J. Unbeknownst to either Lily or her mother, the premises and nearby beach are already occupied by a motley crew of spooks, whose points of view are periodically shared. Although the ghosts offer a humorous "insider" view of strange occurrences (e.g., Lily's shoes are filled with jam; later her hair is dyed bright pink), their narratives and sketchily drawn backgrounds are mostly distracting, cluttering an already complicated story line regarding Lily's longing for her missing father, her frustrations with her mother, and her mysterious ancestors. Ghostly pranks turn ghastly when the protagonist realizes that one of her deceased relatives is trying to communicate some unsavory family secrets that touch on arson, suicide and murder. The macabre turn of events is unsettling, but Lily's search to find the truth about the past remains intriguing. Ages 10-up.
Reviewed on: 08/11/2003