cover image Out of the Dark

Out of the Dark

Betty Ren Wright. Scholastic, $14.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-590-43598-7

Surprisingly, this thriller by a writer known for her ability to raise hairs (The Ghosts of Mercy Manor; The Dollhouse Murders) is more successful with its down-to-earth themes than with its supernatural elements. Jessica Belland's family has moved into her grandmother's house in the Wisconsin countryside, where her out-of-work parents need pay no rent. Mrs. Belland finds a low-wage clerical position, but Jessica's father struggles to write a book: ``Just thinking of the thick pack of white paper waiting next to the typewriter on the screened-in side porch was enough to give Jessie goosebumps.'' These real-life worries prove rather more unsettling than Jessie's nightmares and eventual sightings of a prim and pretty phantom in an abandoned schoolhouse. Wright raises some interesting questions that are particularly relevant to her readers-whether to cheat on tests, how to continue a friendship with a difficult, angry girl and the special bond between a grandmother and her granddaughter. However, the main project of this novel is the heavy-handed suspense tale of a ghost out for revenge, and no room is left to develop other matters to real satisfaction. Ages 8-12. (Jan.)