When twelve-year-old Theresa Martinez’s mom dies, money problems force her family to move into her dead grandmother’s creepy old mansion. Immediately, strange things start to happen. The powdered sugar she’s been searching the kitchen for suddenly falls out of a cupboard. Closed curtains are mysteriously open — all fun stuff for Theresa’s new ghost-obsessed friend Kerry. When they find out the reality show, Ghosters, is hosting a contest for the best paranormal recording, Theresa remembers Dad’s money problems and vows to win the contest. Along with Joey, her little brother who has Asperger’s, the girls use Kerry’s ghost-chasing equipment to hopefully capture prizewinning evidence. They soon discover that ghosts are just the tip of the stunning mysteries the old house holds.
- Title: Ghosters
- Series: Ghosters, Book 1
- Author: Diana Corbitt
- Cover Artist: Lynn Starner
- Publisher: Bedazzled Ink Publishing
- ISBN: 9781943837953
- Publication Date: May 1, 2017
- For Ages: 9-12
- Category: Middle Grade
- Spooky-Scary or Spooky-Fun? ☠️ Scary.
I’d like to thank Diana Corbitt for providing a free copy in exchange for an honest review.
I’m back with more reviews, kiddies, and this was the perfect book to get me back into the swing of things. Creepy Victorian mansion? Check. An engaging middle grade narrator with a spunky British sidekick? Check. Ghosts in the dark, dank basement and in the forbidden attic? Check and CHECK.
Our heroine is Theresa Martinez, a young girl left to fend for herself after her mother dies and her father descends into depression, emerging only occasionally to look after her brother Joey. When Theresa’s family faces financial difficulties, they move into her late grandmother’s dilapidated mansion, which might as well have a neon sign out front with arrows pointing down and letters that say “GHOSTS HERE.” Sure enough, Theresa starts noticing ghostly activity right away, and she bonds with a girl at her new school over the sightings. Theresa and her friend Kerry (the aforementioned British sidekick, who also happens to have quite a bit of expensive paranormal investigation equipment at her disposal) enlist Joey into their ghost hunt, and they begin to unravel the secrets of the mansion.
Nothing scares me like a good ghost story, so I was prepared for some chills, and Ghosters did not disappoint. Though they’re never too intense for a middle grade audience, there are some wonderfully eerie moments in the book. What I wasn’t prepared for, however, was how sad and sweet this book would be. The reader grieves with Theresa over her mother’s death and shares her pain and frustration over her father’s emotional distance. There was a bit of awkwardness at the beginning as I got used to Theresa’s voice, but I settled in to her narration quickly and found her to be a charming and sympathetic narrator.
Theresa’s brother Joey is identified as having Asperger’s, which I must admit made me nervous prior to reading the book. It is sadly a pretty common experience in pop culture to see autistic characters depicted as one-dimensional clichés, and characters with Asperger’s syndrome have been especially popular with authors and screenwriters in recent years. (Full disclosure: I know very little about autism, so I can’t speak to the authenticity of Joey’s character. As I understand it, there is some controversy over whether to continue to use the Asperger’s label, as the diagnosis was added to the DSM-4 but removed from the DSM-5. If I have any readers who have or teach autistic kids or are autistic themselves and would be willing to share their perspective, please feel free to leave a comment below or send me an email.)
With that said, I think that author Diana Corbitt sidesteps many of the pitfalls that some other creators seem unable to avoid. Joey is not a stereotype whose sole personality trait is his autism; he’s just a boy who experiences the world a little bit differently from the people around him. He likes bugs, he annoys his sister, and he forgets to do his chores, just like pretty much every other little brother on the planet. I was pleasantly surprised by his characterization. Joey’s autism is a part of who he is, but it alone does not define him.
I also appreciated this exchange between Theresa and Kerry as they make pizza together and talk about Theresa’s late mother. Kerry remarks wistfully that Theresa’s mom must have made wonderful Mexican food, and Theresa — whose grandparents are all Spanish — playfully but firmly calls her friend out on her racism: “Oh, I get it. We have dark hair and our last name is Martinez, so you assume we’re Mexican.” It’s a very brief moment, but it does touch on the microaggressions that Theresa’s family constantly faces, and it’s nice to see it addressed and to see Kerry called out for it.
The plot is handled just as skillfully as the characterization. The combination of the old-fashioned haunted house mystery with the high-tech paranormal investigation is thrilling. Against her father’s wishes (and in direct violation of the I Am Over 18 Years of Age button on the website), Theresa and Kerry enter a contest for Theresa’s house to be featured on their favorite ghost hunting reality show. They of course win the contest, and the “Ghosters” show up with their EMF meters and night vision cameras for a climactic ghost hunt that is equal parts wish fulfillment (your favorite TV stars crash your sleepover!), creepfest, and moving family drama.
With endearing characters and an exciting plot, Ghosters is a fun, spooky, and bittersweet story about a young girl dealing with loss and a legacy of family secrets. It will satisfy middle grade readers looking for a good ghost story and a little adventure, and it will also tell them a touching story of love and forgiveness. I’m excited to read the next book in the series — Ghosters 2: Revenge of the Library Ghost — because if there’s one thing in this world I love more than a haunted house, it’s a haunted library.
A Victorian mansion with a forbidden attic! That earns an automatic 4 out of 5 coffins.