Brilliant and bone-chilling ghostly reads are not something that are easy to come by for middle-grade readers which is unfortunate as plenty of children love a good ghost story. Step-up Phil Hickes and his debut, The Haunting of Aveline Jones, which offers everything readers could want from a ghostly mystery by the sea.
Aveline is not impressed to be staying with her aunt in Malmouth for the school holidays until she discovers a book that used to belong to a girl who mysteriously disappeared thirty years ago. Fascinated by the ghostly stories and the name inscribed in the front, Aveline decides to investigate the truth about Primrose Penberthy. And that’s when the hauntings begin…
The Haunting of Aveline Jones is a proper spine-tingling middle-grade tale of ghosts and mysteries from the past. With all the ingredients needed for a goose-bump inducing, hair-raising and nail-biting story, readers can expect a heart-pounding introduction to middle-grade horror. Yes it is uncomfortable to read in places and there are times when you want to read from behind your fingers, leap behind the sofa or disappear under the covers but that’s what makes it so good.
Right from the get-go, Phil Hickes had the hairs on the back of my neck standing firmly to attention. Eerie Malmouth with its deserted streets, wintry weather and angry seas frothing and foaming is the perfect place for ghostly goings-on. The sinister looking scarecrows lurking in the gardens did nothing to ease my fears neither did the local talk of folklore and superstitions. From the deliciously dark and spooky atmosphere to the creepy and well-paced plot that is tension-filled from first page to last, Hickes strikes the perfect balance between something that is incredibly spooky but is not going to scare the living daylights out of young readers. Adding to the mood are creepy illustrations by Keith Robinson - the disturbing looking scarecrows being my personal freaky favourite -, and extracts from Primrose’s diary.
For most of us, this might sound like the school holiday of nightmares but for ghost-story loving Aveline a ghostly mystery is the perfect way to spend her time. And those brave enough to join her will find a young girl who is determined, courageous and brave, or at least until the unexplained noises and strange night-time occurrences start happening.
This is not one for the faint-hearted or those that scare easily. By the end, pulses will be pounding, nerves will be shredded and finger-nails may well have been bitten off but it will all have been totally worth it. A superb addition to the middle-grade horror genre.
Recommended for 9+.