The Joy of Spooking: Unearthly Asylum by P J Bracegirdle

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The Joy of Spooking: Unearthly Asylum by P J Bracegirdle

Category: Teens
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: A slow-burning sequel that occasionally delivers a subtly macabre and eerie pleasure.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 304 Date: August 2010
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children's Books
ISBN: 978-1847385208

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The district of Spooking is still a problem for the evil diplomats from Darlington, the city that surrounds it. It was in the way of their waterpark last time, and now puts a stop to a new sewage plant. Actually, chiefly in the way last time was Joy, who still calls it home. A cold, decrepit, run-down and gothic home in her instance, but home nevertheless. But the evil diplomats are still making their plans to redevelop the place. If only Joy could claim historical prestige for it with her beloved author E A Peugeot as a son of Spooking.

Regardless of how much Peugeot has in common with E A Poe, I still think this series redevelops Spooking, as it were, in an unusual way itself. A twelve-year old girl worried about bad town development seems unfashionably mundane. You have to look beyond that, though, to the mysterious deliveries to, and even more mysterious inhabitants of, the town asylum, to get to the child-friendly macabre that is at this book's core.

This tale of the unexpected delivers just that in several senses. Consider one of the diplomats, and how much we learn of him, from his earlier career as a punk rocker, to his continued mentoring of a minor character in the series, to some nudges of romance that might make us feel sympathetic to him - and some that will certainly not make Joy sympathetic to him.

He, and more, create a slow-building mood to the novel, and for once there's no real problem with the fact that the back-cover blurb of my edition covers events from way over the midpoint of the book. Said blurb actually helps disguise, as I hope I've done, the real concern of the story, which totters up to us at times on unsteady feet, before departing and leaving behind a very satisfying feeling. Even the ending has an unhurried, classical feel - the most dynamic part is forty pages before the end and what follows is suitably enjoyable, in quietly wrapping up so much so well.

That quietness will not be to everyone's taste, however, and I can see many people discarding this as a result. Joy is an unremarkable character, her concern for civic environment regardless. The gothic, and family-friendly horror, are forever underplayed, and we get scenes - Joy at a hospital, for one - that don't seem necessary, and dilute the spooking feel.

Other scenes show how clever this author can be, though, and I hate to say this, but it feels justified - this book may be for the cleverer side of the teen audience. It's one that demands and rewards patience, with the appeal of the ending, but which raises possibly too many eyebrows on the approach to it.

I must thank the kind Simon and Schuster people for my review copy.

A brisker child horror, with more laughs, can be read with Raven Mysteries: Vampires and Volts by Marcus Sedgwick.

Buy The Joy of Spooking: Unearthly Asylum by P J Bracegirdle at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Joy of Spooking: Unearthly Asylum by P J Bracegirdle at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy The Joy of Spooking: Unearthly Asylum by P J Bracegirdle at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Joy of Spooking: Unearthly Asylum by P J Bracegirdle at Amazon.com.


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