Who says a ghost story has to (a) be long to deliver a few chills and decent character development, or (b) be peopled with sympathetic protagonists? Not me. And certainly not Megan Atwood, author of The Paranormalists, Case 1: The Haunting of Apartment 101.
I came across this 2012 book in my favorite way, browsing through library shelves and taking a chance. I immediately liked the tone of the blog entries that lead off the story: brash, defiant, and funny. My enthusiasm dipped, however, in the next chapter, as Jinx, principal protagonist, made an entrance that wobbled wildly. One moment she’s humorously critical and the next she descends into an unoriginal, whiny, pain in the ass, and while one might say teenagers—and adults—do, in fact, run this gamut, I found myself wondering if Atwood meant this wobbling to last throughout the book, or if, in writing this quick book, she occasionally went for easy moments of characterization rather than working for a consistent wit and self-awareness within her principal protagonist. What saved Jinx in my eyes, and kept the book from being thrown across the room, was the compassion she shows for her faithful from-childhood-friend, Jackson, still grieving the death of his father.
I read on.
The end has a twist that, while predictable, proved enjoyable, probably because the author was smart enough not to do too much with it . . . in this book. It’s shameless and tempting incentive for readers to continue on to the next volumes, and the twist doesn’t detract from a clean wrap-up of Haunting.
I found myself wishing I had rebelled half as creatively as Jinx during my own dweeby high school years, rather than inventing surface conformances that sought (unsuccessfully) to mask my obsessions with magic, ghosts, history Star Trek/Wars, writing, and other nerdsome delights. I didn’t think of starting a ghost-busting business, but the suburbs of Washington, DC, weren’t noted for their undead . . . and I’ll spare everyone the bad jokes that last sentence brings to mind.
For those who care about such things, this short book (103 pages of large type and wide margins) uses language and images accessible to and appropriate for YA, MG, and adult readers.
The Haunting of Apartment 101 delivers a short, workmanlike, and agreeable ghost story. Those who sneer at any spooks less literary than The Turn of the Screw won’t embrace Haunting, but those who do won’t find themselves nodding off in the midst of Henry James’ dense Victorian writing. I’ll be reading the next couple of installments of this series and am hoping for the best.