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It was a breath of fresh (ghostly) air to read this, even though I’m far from being in the target middle-grade reading group, but 12-year old me read it anyway (and lined up at Yallwest for 45 minutes for an early copy).
Cassidy Blake, a self-professed nerdy tween, has parents who have just about the coolest jobs: they are ‘The Inspectres’, a ghost-hunting team, and they have just been given a round-the-world TV gig, that starts in Edinburgh, to hunt down ghosts in haunted cities.
But that’s only part of what makes Cassidy a fascinating main character for Schwab’s new book; Cass once drowned, and because she came back from near-death, she came back with her very own ghostly sidekick and now, best friend, Jacob. Cassidy can see him and other ghosts, and go beyond ‘The Veil’, and she only comes to truly understand what this all means when she gets to Edinburgh.
The book is endearing, funny, and clever throughout, and contains enough appropriately-scary scenes and ideas for the age group it’s written for. I would have been clamoring for this book when I was younger. The scary scenes beyond ‘The Veil’ and with the Red Raven are expertly written, and are creepy enough to only leave the reader with a chill but not scare beyond their wits. There are also some other minor characters written, like the young girl Cassidy meets in Edinburgh, Lara, who teaches her a lot about ‘what’ she is actually is, an ‘In-Betweener’ and even the city of Edinburgh feels like a character of its own.
Victoria Schwab has crafted a near-perfect book, middle-grade or otherwise, which blends reality with fantasy, and gives the reader characters who are identifiable and likable. I felt like Cassidy was written for a younger version of myself (or is that still me?); I was obsessed so much with ghosts at that age of around 11-12, that it influenced my choice of boarding school, and Cassidy is also walking around with an old camera around her neck, and with her cat Grim by her side (a camera AND a cat?!) . And the glorious part where she tries British fish and chips for the first time; Schwab was after my soul. Our ghostly friend Jacob has emotion sweeping about him and makes the idea of having a spirit for a sidekick (especially if they’ll save your life on a whim), incredibly appealing.
The excitement around this book is warranted, and I hope the adventures of Cassidy (and Jacob) continue. This may well be a book written for 12-year old girls, but the actual readers will surely span ages and other reader groups. Just such a special, unique, and thrilling read.