Moontrug is afraid of some really strange things: sheep that look at her weirdly; having cold toes; adding up… But recently she felt shivers prickle down her spine for a just cause – because there’s a book out there that lots of 9-12-year-olds (Moontrug’s mental age) are finding verrrrrrrry scary: Emily Diamand’s Ways To See A Ghost. Her debut children’s book, Flood Child, won the Times Chicken House Competition in 2008 (a must read for those wanting raiders, knife-throwing, seacats and a feisty heroine) and now she’s back with a new thriller series.
Isis is the daughter of a fake psychic. But unlike her mum, Isis really can see ghosts. When a terrifying creature escapes from the dark places that even spirits fear to go, Isis realises that it puts everyone she cares about, living or dead, in grave danger. Will her powers be enough to protect them all? And will Gray, son of a UFO-fanatic lay aside everything his father has told him to trust in the horrifying things Isis can see?
The story is narrated by Gray and Isis, and right from the first two chapters Diamand surprises and unnerves the reader. Gray’s apparently carefree retelling of an evening UFO-spotting with his father is punctuated by the last, truly eerie sentence of Chapter 1. And likewise, Isis appears to be recounting an evening with her fraudster clairvoyant mother – but again, the last line of Chapter 2 cuts through with sinister precision. It’s a good start… Diamand’s writing is powerful, perhaps most notably so in her descriptions of ghosts. I mean, proper goosebumps shivered down Moontrug’s arms when Mandeville first appeared: ‘As Isis watched, a tall, elderly man built himself in front of her. Smelling like old, feathery-edged books, or the woolly dust balls under her bed. He was wearing the faded memory of a velvet jacket, and on his head was the neat shape of a fez, a long tassel hanging down from the top. Only his eyes glowed. Blue, like back-lit sapphires.’ But alongside Mandeville Diamand creates literature’s most adorable ghost (again, step aside Casper…). Moontrug won’t ruin it by naming her but she says gorgeous things like: ‘I runned on the table… They dint see me. Even when I show my tummy, like this.’
The plot is action-packed and Diamand’s descriptions of the frightening things stirring from ‘the dark places that even spirits fear to go’ are truly terrifying: ‘Ravelling its wings into tattery swirls, dribbling into the ground, its eyes stared out of the night-blackened grass, then fading.’ It’s up to Gray (fantastic to read about a mixed race protagonist by the way – something Children’s Laureate, Malorie Blackman, is keen to push) and Isis to sort this out, partly because they have bucket loads of courage, partly because their parents are totally useless and can’t be relied upon to solve anything. Even by the end of the book Moontrug felt neither Cally nor Gil had done anything to redeem themselves – they’re up there with the Wormwoods and the Dursleys. Total poop parents.
So there are two things you’re going to need when reading this book: courage (for the uber scary ghost bits – you’ll think differently about sudden draughts in the room and patches of colder air after reading this) and an energy bar (for the moment you finish the book) – because the ending is so brilliantly dramatic it’ll leave you gasping for breath. Get ready for some otherworldly twists and turns…