The Haunting House Project is one of the best and most heartbreaking middle grade reads I’ve to date. Author Tricia Clasen does an exquisite job of tackling grief and loss in a tender and heartfelt way that is understandable for the young readers.
Andie the not your average junior high schooler world completely falls apart the day her mother (the glue that holds everything together) dies. While she walks around with a smile on her face and tells everyone she’s fine, from her friends to the school counselor, inside she’s just trying to keep it together. Her older sister Paige does her best, with taking extra shifts to keep “food” on the table while their dad walks around oblivious to the needs of his two grieve-stricken daughters. Gambling life insurance money and drinking seems to be the better option than having a job and possibly getting family therapy.
Thank goodness for a class science project, where her partner suggests paranormal activity. Which is a good thing because Andie loves anything ghost. I believe it was a coping mechanism for our young protagonist as well as a way to come to terms with the death of her mother. Wondering if there is an after-life and if her mother is watching over them.
Which is why Andie haunts her own house with her mother’s spirit. Hence the title of the book. It was a way (in Andie’s eyes) to make her family remember all the good things the mother/wife was and still is to them. To make her family, especially her father see how jacked up everything has become since her death and maybe it’s time to get our act together because whatever they were doing isn’t working.
If you think about it, this is truly sad, but The Haunted House Project shows us the many ways in which people grieve the death of a love one. Not all is good and unfortunately, there are those that simply fall apart and can’t get themselves out of the black-hole that is grief. Case in point Andie’s father.
Still there is light at the end of the tunnel. This book shows you there is hope and in all honesty, I highly recommend The Haunted House Project as a family read. Yes a middle grader can read this on their own but this book is such a great discussion starter. So put this one on your list and the tissue handy.
*I have to thank Sky Pony Press for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Tricia is a college professor of communication at University of Wisconsin-Rock County. She is co-editor of Gendered Identities: Critical Readings of Gender in Children’s and Young Adult Literature, forthcoming Fall of 2016 by Routledge. She grew up in a small town in Wisconsin. Always a lover of a good story, she spent her days reading and dreaming of being a writer, though she never wrote any fiction until much later.
After many years off exploring, she returned to her much-too-frigid home state where she lives with her husband and two girls, her parents, and what seems like small zoo. Most of her time goes to shuttling her kids to dance and trying to get the glitter off the kitchen floor as well as planning trips to much warmer destinations. Her debut novel, THE HAUNTED HOUSE PROJECT, will be published in October by Sky Pony Press.
Age Range: 8 – 12 years
Grade Level: 2 – 7
Hardcover: 228 pages
Publisher: Sky Pony Press (October 11, 2016)
Since her mom died, Andie’s family has crumbled. Instead of working, her dad gambles away insurance money, while her sister, Paige, has put her future on hold in order to pick up extra waitressing shifts. Andie’s afraid of what will happen if people find out just how bad things are. She’s not sure how long she can hide the fact that there’s no food or money in the house…or adults, for that matter.
When her science partner suggests they study paranormal activity, Andie gets an idea. She wants a sign from her mom—anything to tell her it’s going to be okay. Maybe the rest of her family does too. So she starts a project of her own. Pretending to be her mother’s ghost, Andie sprays perfume, changes TV channels, and moves pictures. Haunting her house is Andie’s last hope to bring her family back into the land of the living.
For anyone who loved Counting by 7s, The Haunted House Project is a journey through loss and grief, but ultimately a story of hope and self-reliance. As much as Andie has been changed by her mother’s death, the changes she makes herself are the ones that are most important.