January 3rd, 2016

Review: Ghostlight by Sonia Gensler

by Sonia Gensler

Every summer, Avery and her brother Blake are sent to their grandmother's farm, where they spin stories together about a magical Kingdom. This summer, Blake refuses to play along, telling Avery he's too old for kingdoms and magic. Initially furious, Avery is soon distracted by a boy she finds wandering her grandmother's property, looking to tell stories of his own. He asks her to help him create a movie, and Avery agrees – but once she realizes Julian is intent on making a horror movie set in Hilliard House, a derelict mansion her grandmother has forbidden her to visit, she is scared. Julian teaches Avery about making movies by showing her classic films and explaining different shots and techniques, but each lesson is accompanied by a reminder that they need access to Hilliard House so they can apply what they've learned. Avery slowly warms to Julian's ghost story, but when they finally enter the house to begin filming they uncover the house's own tragic spirit.

Every character in the story has problems that he or she is working through. For Avery, it's learning to recognize and control her temper and coping with the fact that her brother is starting to leave her behind as he grows up. Julian's father is a famous country star, and the celebrity has made it hard for him to talk about his family's problems. Julian himself has several issues that he's learning to deal with through his films.

While Avery and Julian are researching the history of Hilliard House and the identity of the spirit haunting it, they uncover other long-hidden secrets, including a secret marriage, the truth behind the death of a seven year old girl, and an insane mother who may have passed her mental troubles on to her child. Each new twist adds a layer of creepiness to the story.

This middle-grade book will teach readers a lot about film by using examples from psychological horror classics like The Haunting and The Innocents to explain how the director's choice of camera angles, lighting, and shots can shape a movie. It's especially fitting because the story often uses similar techniques to tell its own spooky stories. Julian's excitement cinema is contagious and will encourage some kids to try making their own short films.

Other children might be inspired by Avery's research into the history of Hilliard House to learn more about their own family tree and local landmarks. Her tenacity to chase down the details of what happened in the past is admirable. As she matures Avery also learns to channel her creativity beyond pure imagination into storytelling.

4 out of 5 stars

To read more about Ghostlight, buy it or add it to your wishlist click here.

Peeking into the archives...today in:
2015: Fashionista Piranha will be on break for the holidays
2014: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013)
2013: Thermae Romae Vol. 1 by Mari Yamazaki
2012: Verily, Verily: The KJV by Jon Sweeney
2011: Closing down for the end of the year...
2010: Index of Book Reviews from June – December 2009
When the Heart Cries by Cindy Woodsmall