Denise Farber has just moved back to New Orleans with her mom and step-dad. They left in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and have finally returned, wagering the last of their family’s money on fixing up an old, rundown house and converting it to a bed and breakfast.
Nothing seems to work around the place, which doesn’t seem too weird to Denise. The unexplained noises are a little more out of the ordinary, but again, nothing too unusual. But when floors collapse, deadly objects rain down, and she hears creepy voices, it’s clear to Denise that something more sinister lurks hidden here.
Answers may lie in an old comic book Denise finds concealed in the attic: the lost, final project of a famous artist who disappeared in the 1950s. Denise isn’t budging from her new home, so she must unravel the mystery-on the pages and off-if she and her family are to survive…
Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language
Booklist starred (August 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 22))
Grades 7-10. Following up on a successful collaboration with Kali Ciesemier in I Am Princess X (2016), Priest pairs with O’Connor to neatly weave together the history of comic books and contemporary concerns about gentrification into an eerie ghost story set in a ramshackle house that’s as much a character as the people living in it. Denise, her mom, and her stepdad have just moved into a nearly destroyed, once-beautiful house in New Orleans, and almost right away, Denise starts noticing odd things. First, they’re harmless, if creepy, but later, unexplained, dangerous accidents happen as the family renovates the house. But the comic book manuscript Denise finds carefully hidden in the attic (pages of which appear throughout the novel) is the key to the source of the poltergeists. Meanwhile, Denise’s neighbors are uneasy about outsiders capitalizing on cheap property in New Orleans, and Priest does a great job of skillfully including the important conversations Denise and her family have with their new community. At its heart, though, this is a ghost story, and Priest excels at building palpable atmosphere: Denise’s parents’ anxiety about their shoestring budget, the sweltering New Orleans summer heat, the disrepair of the house (“soggy plaster fell from the studs like wet cake”), and the increasingly terrifying haunting. Dynamic characters and a surprising mystery round out this sharp, satisfying, and engrossingly spooky story.
Kirkus Reviews (July 15, 2018)
A white family’s attempts to renovate a storm-wracked Victorian New Orleans house are complicated by bitterly contending ghosts. The resident spirits aren’t particularly reticent either, readily manifesting not only to 17-year-old Denise and her newlywed mother and stepfather, but to visiting neighbors as well—as a whiff of perfume, creeping shadows, a falling ceiling, and other ominous portents. But rather than being a stereotypical screamer, Denise has much in common (characterwise, at least) with intrepid, gun-toting Lucida Might, girl crime fighter and star of a 1950s manuscript comic Denise finds in the attic. Priest (Brimstone, 2017, etc.) ably weaves contemporary issues and a feminist strand into this fantasy as, while briskly fending off ghostly visitations and searching out clues to the house’s violent past, Denise makes new friends and encounters pushback from some St. Roch neighbors rightfully leery of white gentrifiers. Highlighted by a wonderfully melodramatic climax, the author brings her plotlines to upbeat resolutions with a thrilling discovery, a revelation about the comic’s author, and a degree of general community acceptance of Denise and her family. Nearly every character’s race, white or black, is carefully but unobtrusively specified. O’Connor (The Altered History of Willow Sparks, 2018) inserts multiple pages from the comic and atmospheric stand-alone illustrations all printed in haint blue. Conflicts, ectoplasmic and otherwise, laid to rest in a deliciously creepy setting. (Graphic/novel hybrid ghost fantasy. 11-13)
About the Author
Cherie Priest is the author of I Am Princess X, her debut young adult novel which earned three starred reviews and was a YALSA Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Adult Readers. She is also the author of more than a dozen adult science fiction, fantasy, and horror novels, including Boneshaker, which won the Locus Award for Best Science Fiction Novel.
Her website is www.cheriepriest.com/
Around the Web
The Agony House on Amazon
The Agony House on Barnes & Noble
The Agony House on Goodreads
The Agony House Publisher Page