A Curious Tale of the In-Between (Bloomsbury, Sept 1, 2015) is YA author Lauren DeStefano's middle grade debut, and it is a good one!
Pram was orphaned before she was even born when her mother killed herself. Her mother's body was found before it was too late for Pram, and so she was taken in by her aunts, determined to protect her as they hadn't been able to do for her mother. The aunts named her Pragmatic, in a hopeful wish for future grounded-ness in reality, and homeschooled her in the home for the aged that they ran.
But Pram's reality was not that of her aunts, because Pram could see ghosts, even the ghosts of insects. Her only real friend was a ghost boy named Felix, and that was enough. But her somewhat isolated peace was shattered when she was 12, and her aunts could no longer fight the command from Authority that Pram attend regular school....and that's when the story really gets going
At school, Pram becomes friends with Clarence, who's own mother recently died. His desire to make contact with her again leads the two of them to the attention of a medium, who senses Pram's ability to see ghosts. The medium wants to use Pram's powers for her own sinister purposes...and the story takes a dark turn toward supernatural evil when Pram is kidnapped.
But though there are horrific elements, and times of great tension (making for vigerous page-turning), Pram, with her goodness of heart and essential calm, serves as an anchor keeping the book from being too dark. This is a book for those who enjoy stories of unlikely friendships, kids learning about who they are (in Pram's case, this involves learning about her parents, as well as learning about what she herself is capable of as friend to both the living and the dead; in Felix's case, it involves gathering the strength to move on from his life as a ghost, and in Clarence's case, it means dealing with his mother's death) and, most obviously, it's one for those who like ghosts as people, not just as spectral menaces!
It is really rather charming, and very gripping, not least because Pram is a dear.
Review copy received from the publisher.