From School Library Journal
Grade 7 Up-Susan Backstrom, the protagonist of this haunting and harrowing novel, appears to have everything. In reality, she is a prisoner of her abusive father, who beats his wife whenever he disapproves of his daughter's behavior. In a rare moment of freedom at the library, Susan overhears a group of kids talking about entering a haunted house and convinces them to let her go with them. With these new friends, she discovers that the house has a life of its own. Susan forms a close bond with the house and with Nathan, the ghost of a boy who committed suicide in it. When her father's menacing becomes too much, she decides to kill herself to be with Nathan and the house forever, and it is up to her friends to stop her and the house to show her how to use her newfound powers, derived from a piece of Nathan's bone, to heal rather than hurt. In this prequel to Hoffman's adult novels A Red Heart of Memories (1999) and Past the Size of Dreaming (2001, both Ace), the author creates an unusual world. As the story is told through Susan's eyes, everything, even the more fantastical events, seems matter-of-fact and dispassionate, which draws readers in and intensifies the horror. However, while some readers may find it satisfying that Susan has found a way to help her mother, others are likely to question her ability to protect herself from her father and worry that she has no adult to turn to for help.Lisa Prolman, Greenfield Public Library, MA
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Gr. 6-8. In this atmospheric prequel to A Red Heart of Memories
(2000) and Past the Size of Dreaming
(2002), a teenager begins the painful process of breaking away from her abusive father, with help from allies both human and supernatural. A chance encounter with three classmates leads Susan to an abandoned house that not only turns out to have a strong personality of its own but also harbors an uncommonly substantial ghost named Nathan. After years of listening to her mother being beaten for her
minor transgressions, Susan is internally well armored--but that armor thins under the influence of these newfound friends and the eerie closeness that develops between her and Nathan. Richly endowed with complex relationships, a strange and subtle brand of magic, evocative language, and suspenseful storytelling, this will draw readers into a world less safe and simple than it seems at first glance, then send them on a determined hunt for sequels. John PetersCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved