By Saundra Mitchell
Published 2009 by Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Iris is pretty sure this summer will be like all the others in her sleepy Louisiana town - she'll amuse herself by telling spooky stories with her best friend. But Iris is wrong. A real spooky story is about to drop itself in her lap - and it wants her to solve it.
A backlist title I picked up on a complete whim, this was a pretty forgettable read for me. I'm pretty sure this is Mitchell's first novel and it felt a bit underdeveloped for me. Maybe I read too many spooky, otherworldly mystery type books but much of this book felt pretty run of the mill. Where I think Mitchell succeeded most in this book was in setting - she imbues this Louisiana town with the suffering heat and humidity, and the claustrophobia and closeness it makes you feel. Having been to Louisiana in summer, I was instantly brought back to those days by Mitchell's evocative descriptions.
Similarly, I think Mitchell does a good job with her main character. It's not hard to root for Iris, or to see some part of yourself reflected in her. She's at a sticky point in her life, wanting things to change but also wanting them to stay the same. She wants to believe all the things her parents have told her, even though she's discovering that they might not all be true. Actually, now that I'm thinking about it more deeply, this book reminded me a bit of Jasper Jones, in that it captures a very specific time in one's life.
Where the book falls down for me is the actual plot and the spookiness. I've said before - it's terribly difficult to actually scare me, so I really didn't find this book at all creepy. In addition, it was not very hard to figure out what the big mystery was either.
Overall, though, a solid read for someone looking for some backlist chills.