Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Paranormalists Case 1: Haunting of Apartment 101 by Megan Atwood

Darby Creek is Lerner's imprint that publishes titles for beginning and struggling readers. Some of their titles, like Pamela Service's Alien Agent series, are awesome.

This title is not awesome and I was disappointed.

Jane was ignored in middle school and kids never remembered her name, so now she goes by Jinx, wears black clothes, dyes her hair, is hostile to everyone, and trusts no one except her family and Jackson. Jackson is a quarterback on the sophomore football team, universally popular, but still hurting from his dad's death four years ago.

Recently, Jinx has finally gotten her Paranormalists website/blog up and running and is determined to track down some real ghosts, which Jackson will then exorcise (not that he's sure how this works, but that's his part of the team). But Jinx is furious when Jackson insists on helping Emily, one of the high school kids who always forgot Jinx's name in middle school. Using Jinx's tech and Jackson's research, they discover the secret to the terrifying haunting going on in Emily's apartment, but the discovery will also destroy their friendship.

This is the first title in a series and presumably the characters will be fleshed out more in additional installments, but the writing is bland and choppy and the characters are unrealistic. The main characters, Jinx and Jackson, are cardboard cutouts and tell the reader what they're feeling, instead of showing through the story. Their behavior is more like middle school students and it's hard to believe they're in high school.

>For example - the reader is constantly told how popular Jackson is, but his actions and behavior don't support this. Basically, he's a high school quarterback who shows no interest in girls and doesn't spend time with anyone but Jinx (and an occasional hanging out with the football team).

Jinx is "a freak," because she dyes her hair, wears black clothes and is reputed to deal in black magic. She sounds pretty Goth to me but among the various school cliques, she doesn't list Goths - is she the only one in the entire school - a school large enough to have separate football teams for each grade level? Would she really stick out that much in a school this size? And if she has no friends, how did word get around about her transformation during the summer before her freshman year? Jinx's character also doesn't fit with her sudden infatuation with one of the teachers (mentioned several times in one chapter and then never referenced again).

How, exactly, does having kids forget your name in middle school (in what must have been a huge school) translate to never being able to trust anyone? Why does Jackson demand that Jinx completely and absolutely trust him? Creepy! If Jackson was really so popular, he should have had friends to share with Jinx. Does Jackson actually have any friends other than Jinx? It doesn't look like it.

Finally, why is Jinx's mom concerned about Jackson? If I had a daughter who, in the summer between middle school and high school had a major personality change and became hostile, pathologically unable to trust anyone, and had no friends other than one boy all because no one paid attention to her, she's the one I'd be concerned about! I find it hard to believe that parents strict enough to set a curfew aren't concerned about Jinx's attitude (or the amount of time Jackson hangs out in her bedroom) and let her go off to a sleepover with a girl they don't know.

Verdict: The ghost hunting plot would make a passable middle grade novel or even a good teen title for struggling readers, but only if you completely rewrote the main characters. Their behavior and motivations don't make sense and the awkward and choppy writing style is hard to read. Not recommended.

ISBN: 9780761383321; Published October 2012 by Darby Creek/Lerner; Egalley provided by publisher through Netgalley

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