Sunday, September 21, 2008

Review of All the Lovely Bad Ones by Mary Downing Hahn

All the Lovely Bad Ones by Mary Downing Hahn (Clarion, 2008)

Having been kicked out of summer camp, Travis and his sister Corey are packed off to stay with their Grandma at her bed and breakfast, the Vermont Inn. As soon as they find out that the inn is supposedly haunted, although no ghosts have been seen for years, the kids decide to plan a spooky visitation of their own. Their pranks thrill the guests but also wake up the real ghosts, who create quite an impressive poltergeistly display.

It turns out that there are two separate types of ghosts roaming about – a group of high-spirited young boys and a blood-curdling old woman. Without spoiling the plot (which is fairly predictable in a nicely shivery kind of way), let me just say that the inn used to be a poor farm, where destitute families came when they had nowhere else to go – and many of them in fact never went anywhere else again, thanks to a nasty piece of work named Miss Ada.

Travis and Corey figure out what the young ghosts need in order to rest peacefully, and they manage to accomplish it – but then they have to deal with the deadly rage of the ghastly Miss Ada.

It’s hard as an adult to read a ghost story for kids and to tell if it will hold any chills for them; my spooky-bone has been somewhat dulled by grown-up tales of terror. Having closed my eyes through much of the movie “The Orphanage,” to which All the Lovely Bad Ones bears a tiny resemblance, I found this book to be a cakewalk. However, I do think this will be a pleasantly scary book for any kid who hasn’t launched straight into Stephen King, especially with the fairly horrific tales of life at the poor farm. There are long-ago beatings and even death, as well as a gruesome (but luckily toned-down) grave exhumation, so this isn’t for the completely tender-hearted.

Give to kids ages 9 and up who insist they want a really scary book.

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