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The Haunting of Pico (Pico, Texas Book 1) Kindle Edition
"Children of Blood and Bone"
Tomi Adeyemi conjures a stunning world of dark magic and danger in her West African-inspired fantasy debut. Learn more
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Asian adoptee Chris moves with his family from the big city to tiny Pico, Texas, and he's not sure this is going to be a good move. We start right off with his opening days at school and get an immediate feel for how Kampman is going to handle this story line. The standard approach is some bullying by the football team, mean girls, racist comments, sneering small minded teachers and all of that sort of thing. But no, Kampman moves in an entirely different direction.
Chris meets and almost immediately develops a tight circle of interesting friends. And get this - they are funny, insightful and worth reading about. They fill Chris in on the ghosty history of his new house and just like that we are in a teen dramedy version of Scooby-Doo, with girl issues, some sharp and witty cross-talk, and a lot of wry and deadpan observations about school, family, small towns, being adopted, being Asian in Texas, and, of course, teen life. Did not see that coming.
Meanwhile, the two, (or three or more), interrelated supernatural storylines keep rolling along, providing a scary kick from time to time and giving everybody a reason to keep talking and doing things. A lot of the plotting is vague around the edges and some things that seem important just end up window dressing. There are a few loose ends and a head scratcher or two, but this is a ghost story not a math textbook, and everything doesn't have to add up for the reader to have a good time.
Bottom line - I liked our hero's vibe and attitude, even if he was a bit gormless at times. I liked the strong and capable teen girls, who held their own just fine. I enjoyed the rest of the pals, the secondary characters, Chris's family, and even the bad guys. This was a very appealing ensemble cast, and between the well rendered small town atmosphere, the sharp writing, and the knowing generosity of the author this ended up being a very entertaining read. A nice find.
(Please note that I found this book a while ago while browsing Amazon Kindle freebies. It is currently a kindleunlimited choice. I have no connection at all to either the author or the publisher of this book.)
Both teens and adults who enjoy a paranormal mystery with a strong climax will be pleased with this story. It is also suitable for boys as much as girls, because it has a strong male protagonist, something that is much too infrequent in YA fiction. Chris is a sympathetic, compelling hero, and the coterie of friends he draws to himself are quite entertaining, as well.
While this novel has some excellent comic repartee scattered throughout, I would label the story primarily drama. And at certain moments it moves from mystery into suspense or downright thriller because of some truly creepy villains who crank up the action. (Note: I myself am not a fan of horror, and anyone who loves horror may not find this novel particularly scary. But for readers such as myself who don't read horror or can't stomach extreme violence, this story is plenty frightening, particularly in the ultimate resolution of the main plot.)
For fans of romantic triangles in YA, there is a quite unusual and interesting one in this book for you to enjoy.
I particularly recommend this fun, paranormal mystery to anyone who loves the Dead Is YA paranormal mystery series by Marlene Perez or enjoyed the male hero in Also Known as Rowan Pohi by Ralph Fletcher.
For those concerned about the age appropriateness of this story: There are a few sexual situations (though discretely handled), a bit of underage drinking, and several scenes of strong violence. Because of these things, some parents may consider this story more appropriate for teens 16 and above.
I rate this book as follows:
Hero: 5 stars
Subcharacters: 5 stars
Villain(s): 5 stars
Mystery Plot: 5 stars
Paranormal Elements: 5 stars
Overall Rating: 5 stars
We then follow Chris and his friends as they search the house for the source of the sounds, and interview older residents in town to discover their cause. It looks like there really had been some secrets hidden in Pico....
There's also a second plot line involving Chris and his new girl friends (or girlfriends?) which is at turns both funny and suspenseful, and everything comes together at the end in an action scene that kept me up reading until the book was finished.
Pluses: great cast of characters, good balance of action and humor, great plot twists, defied stereotypes about small towns
Minuses: would have liked more "local flavor" for Pico
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I was fortunate to win a copy of this novel via the Goodreads First Reads program.Read more