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I AIN’T AFRAID OF NO GHOST (... Except for Most of Them)

In which the teenage ghostbusters in Jonathan Stroud's The Screaming Staircase discover THERE IS NO DANA, ONLY ZUUL.

I AIN’T AFRAID OF NO GHOST (... Except for Most of Them)

BOOK REPORT for The Screaming Staircase (Lockwood & Co. #1) by Jonathan Stroud

Cover Story: Listen! Do You Smell That?!
BFF Charm: Shiny
Swoonworthy Scale: 2
Talky Talk: Doctor Whoey
Bonus Factors: WHO YA GONNA CALL?!
Anti-Bonus Factor: Um, Ghosts
Relationship Status: I’ll Be Your Gatekeeper

Cover Story: Listen! Do You Smell That?!

Sorry, it’s my all time favorite line from Ghostbusters, had to fit it in here somewhere. Also, it’s valid: because we discover that many tools used to fight ghosts - like saltpeter and iron - have a very distinctive smell, so who knows what that green fog smells like. See, I made it work!

Anyway, I love this cover. It depicts a pretty crazy scene from the book, it accurately portrays Our Heroes, and it’s spooky! Also, it’s pretty distinctive, so it’s easy for me to find on the shelf at the library when I’m trying to get it for a patron.

Hashtag librarian problems, ya’ll.

The Deal:

London is suffering with a Problem - that is, the problem of malicious, ever-present ghosts that are EVERYWHERE. Nobody knows why, but about 50 years ago, ghosts started popping up all over England. The worst part? These ghosts can actually harm you. Not just by “scaring you to death,” either; these suckers can make you explode with ectoplasm, or swell up like some horrible, painful Willy Wonka blueberry when they Touch you. So yeah, these ghosts? Not effing around.

Even better - and what super freaks me out, personally - is the fact that even though the ghosts can still kill you, only people under about age 20 can see them. So while adults obey the evening curfew and try to protect themselves with things like iron charms and running water, they also will hire Psychic Detectives - that is, kids under 20 who use their abilities to see, hear or even smell ghosts to track them down and get rid of them.

Our Heroes - Anthony Lockwood (titular!), POV-er Lucy Carlyle and love-to-hate-him George - are members of the smallest psychic detective agency in all London. They’re trying to make it big in the world of psychic detectives - preferably without getting killed in the process.

BFF Charm: Shiny

Lucy Carlyle may not be the chipper-est heroine, but she is undeniably one tough chick. Sent to work in a dangerous profession at the tender age of 8, Lucy had to learn the hard way that to look out for herself - because when a Type 3 Malicious Spirit is hard on your heels, you don’t want to hedge your bets that the Adult in that situation will try to save you first. And hey dude - survival is every man for herself. So yeah, Lucy has had a hard life - but she’s super brave, sensible - a trait I value highly in my ghost killers - and not too tough to open her heart to some new friendships. Aww.

Also? I will be straight up with you - Lucy would make a great BFF because I am, um, several years past age 20 and would make a prime ghost target, so having ghost-butt-kicking Lucy on my side would make me feel a lot safer.

Swoonworthy Scale: 2

There is enough of Lucy’s as-yet-unacknowledged crush on Someone Special to make it really sweet. And yeah, there’s not a lot of swoonage, but honestly - there are deadly ghosts around, people! We’ve got to keep our faculties about us! NO TIME FOR LOVE, DOCTOR JONES!

Talky Talk: Doctor Whoey

This book is set sometime in the future, but it still feels very mysterious and almost Victorian because of the creepiness of the scenarios when Lucy and the rest of the agency arrive somewhere to defeat a pesky ghost. And yes, the scares are there - they are most definitely there, let me assure you - but there are also a lot of fun quips and back-and-forth-age between Lucy and the quirky but charming Lockwood. Lockwood is an unconventionally handsome oddball with a lot of eclectic knowledge but not a lot of, well, walking-around-sense, and it’s fun to watch Lucy bail him out of sticky social situations. So because of this - even though it’s not strictly the same kind of thing - I have been recommending this to my Whovian library patrons with total confidence. There’s adventure, humor, and a lovable eccentric in a trench coat. Call me crazy, but that sounds like something fans of Doctor Who would love.

Bonus Factor: WHO YA GONNA CALL?!

Um, hello, this is a book about teenage GHOSTBUSTERS! There are crazy ghosts, wacky antics on the part of the ghostbusters themselves, and the big final case that will make or break their agency! Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together - MASS HYSTERIA!

Anti-Bonus Factor: Um, Ghosts

This is not an anti-bonus factor unless you are a giant baby like me, but this book is SCARY AS CRAP. Do not read this alone, do not read this at night, do not pass Go, do not collect $200. I’m not freaking kidding, you guys; each ghostly encounter is described with such great sensory detail, that everything seems waaaaaaaaaay too real. I may or may not* have made my husband watch an hour of cartoons with me after I finished reading it - to, you know, chase the scary stuff out of my head before bedtime.

*Spoiler alert: I did.

Casting Call:

Ariel Winter as Lucy Carlyle

Andrew Garfield as Anthony Lockwood

Relationship Status: I'll Be Your Gatekeeper

If this book is the Keymaster, sign me up to be Gatekeeper. Sure, it might have scared the comfy fleece pants off me, but it’s not everyday you get to go bustin’ ghosts all around London with some of the coolest cats ever to wield a proton pack. Or a rapier. Whatever.

FTC Full Disclosure: I read this book for free from my library. I did not receive any money or cocktails for this review, even though I asked nicely. The Screaming Staircase is available now. 

Savannah Kitchens's photo About the Author: Savannah Kitchens is doing the Lord’s work spreading YA lit to the masses as the head (and only member - but who’s really counting?) of the YA department at her library near Birmingham, Alabama. When she’s not disappointing her parents, she’s bottle drinking wine and playing board games with her husband.