December 8, 2009

Tween Tuesday with a Review of Spellbinder by Helen Stringer

Tween Tuesday was started over at Green Bean Teen Queen as away to hightlight awesome books for the 9-12 year old set. AKA Tweens.

First I need to share a guest post I did at Book Blather for her Blogoversary/Holiday Celebration!  My post was on a great middle grade book.  Check it out, and then make sure to check out the rest of her blog.  She's got some awesome things going on.  Thanks Drea for letting me guest post!

Ok on to this weeks Tween book:
Spellbinder by Helen Stringer

From Goodreads
     Belladonna Johnson can see ghosts. It’s a trait she’s inherited from her mother’s side of the family, like blue eyes or straight hair. And it’s a trait she could do without, because what twelve-year-old wants to be caught talking to someone invisible?

     It is convenient, though, after Belladonna’s parents are killed in a car accident. They can live with her the same as always, watching the same old TV shows in their same old house. Nothing has changed . . . until everything changes.
     One night, with no warning, they vanish into thin air—along with every other ghost in the world. It’s what some people think ghosts are supposed to do, but Belladonna knows it’s all wrong. They may not be living, but they’re not supposed to be gone.
     With the help of her classmate Steve, a master of sneaking and spying, Belladonna is left to uncover what’s become of the spirits and to navigate a whole world her parents have kept well-hidden. If she can’t find her way, she’ll lose them again—this time for good.

My Review
When I got this book I thought it had a very interesting concept.  I loved that it had ghosts, but they weren't spooky or scary - at least not in the conventual way.  So I started reading with the hope that the concept would hold up.  It did! I was very pleasantly suprised by the story.  I found Belladonna (I love that name by the way) was a character I could really believe in.  She wasn't fearless, but did things even if they scared her.  Instead of sitting by and letting the adults fix the problem of all the missing ghosts she takes matters into her own hands.  I love how she learned to trust herself and her abilities.  It was great to see her character grow.  But it wasn't just Belladonna- her companion Steve, grows and changes as well.

The plot is very well constructed. The pace was perfect.  It didn't drag and really kept my attention. Again and again I found myself picking it up to read just a bit more.  It could've been written in a way that was confusing and filled with holes, but Helen Stringer constructed a story that was elaborate in details but everything tied together.  She didn't give you leads that were never came back to - something that really annoys me as a reader.  Not to say there weren't parts of the story left untold - some of the who's and why's still aren't clear but the ending seemed to hint at a possible sequel.  In the end I really enjoyed following Belladonna and Steve through their adventures, and I look forward to more about them. I think my students will agree!

Most stick with you image:  Giant cockroaches on the ceiling!

Final Though: A great read for the middle grades.  Well constructed story with just enough creepiness, suspense and mystery to keep even reluctant readers reading. 

Best for ages: 10 and up BUT if you have a 10 year old that gets scared easily you might want to hold off.  My 10 year old would love it.