15-year-old Julie Richardson is about to learn that being the daughter of a witch isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. When she and her best friend, Marcus, witness an elderly lady jettisoned out the front door of her home, it’s pretty obvious to Julie there’s a supernatural connection.
In fact, there’s a whisper of menace behind increasing levels of poltergeist activity all over town. After a large-scale paranormal assault on Julie’s high school, her mother falls victim to the spell Endless Night. Now it’s a race against time to find out who is responsible or Julie won’t just lose her mother’s soul, she’ll lose her mother’s life.
From the first synopsis I read when Strange Chemistry announced they had signed Sean Cummings, this book sounded like it would be a super fun read. And though it wasn’t a perfect book, it made good in its promise with a very fun tale of hauntings, magic and romance. Reminiscent in tone of Buffy, it’s a book that has fun with the tropes of the genre and doesn’t take itself too seriously, despite tackling some difficult emotional topics, such as the impending loss of a parent and the first steps on the romantic front.
A lot of this book depends on the chemistry and dynamics between Julie and her best friend, Marcus. Fortunately, this worked really well and felt convincing, especially later on in the book when there is a clear ‘will she, won’t she’ going on. Their friendship is one of the mainstays of Julie’s life and when all hell breaks loose, Marcus is the one thing that keeps Julie focused and sane. I loved the interaction between them; they often had me chuckling out loud with their snarky banter, but at the same time Marcus’ unwavering support and that letter also made me a bit mushy on the inside.
Of course, there is far more to Julie than just her relationship with Marcus. She’s a strong female lead: funny, capable, head strong and independent. Julie is burning to prove to her mum how competent she, that she doesn’t need to be treated like a child anymore. It’s the classic adolescent’s revolt. Unfortunately, when her mum gets hurt and might not make it, Julie thinks it is all her fault and she reacts accordingly. Julie has some growing up yet to do and while Cummings took her a ways to maturity, I think she’s far from mature yet, which leaves some interesting things to discover in the next book. Similarly, Marcus has to do some growing of his own, though in his case, it’s more that he needs to learn how to stand up for himself. While he doesn’t really come across as unsure of himself, he actually seems pretty comfortable with who he is, he does let the bullies walk all over him – read stuff him in a trash can – at school, seemingly unable to get them to stop, whereas by the end of the book he faces them down and gets the upper hand. While I really liked Marcus, I thought he was awesome and a lot like someone I would have hung out with at school, I do think he doesn’t come across as a bullied kid. The only department in which he seems rather insecure is in the romance section and well, I think 98% of young teens are, so that really isn’t surprising. Then again, apart from the few scenes with the bullies, we only see Marcus around either people he’s comfortable with or in an action-filled situation, so there isn’t really a lot of time or need to show him behaving like a bullied kid.
I loved the supernatural community Cummings created. We only catch the barest glimpse of the whole, since Julie and her mum aren’t part of a coven, but it’s clear that Cummings knows how this community is shaped and who you could meet if you’d ever find yourself amongst them. I thought Holly Penske, the crooked information broker was genius and Betty the Great Dane was AWESOME! I totally loved Betty and from the first time she walked on page until quite late in the game I wasn’t sure whether she was a good guy or a bad guy, which gave her an extra edge.
If there was one complaint I had with Poltergeeks, other than the previously mentioned thing about Marcus, it was that some things were a little predictable. I’d figured out the identity of the person possessed by Thomas Hopkins a long while before the end, though I hadn’t expected the twist that followed after Julie figured it out. What I can’t figure out is whether Cummings telegraphed the culprit’s identity that clearly or whether I just watch and read too many crime shows and books and he’s relied too much on the common tropes of the genre, which made it easy for me to solve the riddle. I suspect it’s the latter as the former would be sloppy writing, unless he did it on purpose as a misdirect for the twist that comes after. In which case, well-played sir, well-played.
Regardless, Poltergeeks is a fun read. It might not be a classic of the genre, but it is the kind of book that will show a teen that reading can be fun and those kinds of books are just as, if not more, important than the classics. Poltergeeks could be a gateway drug for a reluctant reader who enjoys the snarkier adolescent-oriented TV shows. In any case, this non-reluctant not-so-adolescent reader had a great time with Julie and Marcus’ adventure and I’m looking forward to the second book in the series.
This book was provided for review by the publisher.