There are a number of middle grade books out there whose central premise is a girl who sees ghosts/has psychic powers. But it's a fine premise, and if nicely done, the result can be extremely readable, age-appropriate, supernaturally mysterious fun. Such is the case of the Saranormal series, of which I just read books 6 and 7 in what was (as much as circumstances allowed) a very quick single sitting. And so help me, if I had the eighth book on hand, I'd be reading it now, reviews be hanged....
But I don't. So here's a quick look at Giving Up the Ghost, and The Secrets Within, by Phoebe Rivers (Simon and Schuster, MG, 2013)
So I started in the middle of the series, but it wasn't a problem. In these books, Sara is still finding her feet both as a newcomer to her great-grandmother's home on the Jersey shore, and as a 12 year-old psychic with supernatural gifts that just won't stop appearing. It runs in the family--Sara's great-grandmother Lady Azura, is a professional psychic. But though Sara has always been able to see ghosts, in Book 6 (Giving Up the Ghost) she develops the power to read minds (not fun! not fun at all!), and in Book 7 (The Secrets Within) she finds she can read the past lives of objects (also disturbing).
In each book, Sara must struggle not to be overcome by the supernatural floods of information that beset her, she must solve ghostly mysteries, and she must navigate the challenging waters of middle school friendships. There's enough substance in the character relationships to make the stories more than fluff, and Sara's struggles are compelling. The ghosts are creepy, in a mild way, and there are many nice touches of material details that made Sara's world come alive.
And now I am at the point where Sara is about to meet in real life a boy she's seen pictures of in her mind...a boy who might have supernatural gifts of her own...and I am really curious to see what happens!
Highly recommended to the upper Elementary/lower Middle School reader (ages 8-10, in other words) who wants her supernatural and her real life world in one entertaining package.
(That being said, Sara's voice and point of view are, understandably and unsurprisingly perhaps a bit young for most grown-up readers of MG sci fi/fantasy, especially at the beginning of Book 6, so I wouldn't push this in the hands of those readers. Some things we just aren't the target audience for, although I did enjoy these myself!)
(possible bias--Sara lives in a big old rundown house with interesting stuff in it. Although the stuff doesn't play as much of a role as I'd like in Book 6, it's very much there in Book 7, and I am a sucker for old houses with stuff in them).
Disclaimer: review copies received from the publisher