Cover of This is Not a Ghost Story by Andrea Portes. A lonely farmhouse with a single light on, in a misty landscape.

About the Book

Title: This is Not a Ghost Story
Published: 2020

Cover Story: Creepy, Yet Inaccurate
Drinking Buddy: Hot Coffee
MPAA Rating: PG-13 (Intense situations, language, alcohol use)
Talky Talk: What Could Have Been…
Bonus Factor: Hell House
Bromance Status: Summer Acquaintance

Cover Story: Creepy, Yet Inaccurate

This country farm house with the mist and lone light is creepy. But the book describes the home as large and imposing, and with no barn. 

The Deal:

The summer before she starts college at Bryn Mawr, Daffodil Franklin lands a job house sitting for a vacationing professor. The amount of money she is being paid is outrageous, and all she has to do is stay in the house for the summer and keep an eye on the crew that is building a guest house out back. And never mind about those nasty rumors about the house. Heck, those people died over a century and a half ago.

Of course, if a deal seems to good to be true…strange things begin happening. What’s with these weird specimen bottles hidden all over the house? What’s been scratching at the door at night? Why is Daffodil plagued with nightmares of people she knows trying to kill her? Or are they nightmares? Who keeps moving things when her back is turned? 

Maybe she should have taken out a student loan instead.

Drinking Buddy: Hot Coffee

Two pints of beer cheersing with a "Denied" stamp over them

This is a book that relied too much on plot and not enough on character. For starters, we don’t get a lot of background on Daffodil. She teases us with her past, with hints about her mentally ill mother and her high school boyfriend, Zander. But it all comes out in drips and drabs, and we don’t get the whole story until the very end of the book. Building suspense is one thing, but this was just plain messing with the reader.

Also, this is another heroine who just lets stuff happen to her. No matter how creepy things get in the house, she kind of just stays there. When the boss of the construction crew gets a little too friendly, she tries to placate him. When she wakes up to find Penelope, her neighbor, standing over her bed with a hammer, she believes the explanation that it was ‘just a dream.’ When she discovers that furniture is moving by itself, she snuggles in for another Ancient Aliens podcast.

Sorry, I like my YA heroines like I like my coffee: bitter and mentally stimulating. 

MPAA Rating: PG-13 (Intense situations, language, alcohol use)

So just what is going on in this house? Why is everyone so evasive when talking about the kindly professor’s wife? Why is Penelope, the older English neighbor who takes a shine to Daffodil, so insistent that they spend time together? And there’s Mike, the foreman of the work crew. His interest in Daffodil’s safety is pretty creepy.

Also, the author does a fine job of making us wonder if something supernatural is going on or if there’s a more mundane explanation. Daffodil is plagued by strange scratching at night and vanishing objects. But then Mike mentions how their equipment was scratched up and some of their tools have gone missing, showing us that Daffodil is not imagining things. Daffodil has had some tragedies in her life (not that she really wants to share details with the reader), so we can’t blame her for having a paranoid imagination and frequent, realistic nightmares. And just what happened to her ex, Zander?

So is there something otherworldly about this house? Is Daffodil imagining things? Or does someone have it out for her?

Talky Talk: What Could Have Been…

This book was on the shortish side, and it had all the elements of a good horror story: the isolated house, the innocent girl, the strange neighbors, the mysterious happenings. But Daffodil’s passive nature, the obfuscation of her past, and the inconsistency of what was going on didn’t grab my attention. The ending twist was good, but I had so little invested in the book that it didn’t hit me like it should have.

Bonus Factor: Hell House

So is it the house that’s making Daffodil see all these strange visions? Is it something from the past that’s making everyone go nutso? Or is it Daffodil herself? Actually, we never do really find out. But the house was nice and creepy.

Bromance Status: Summer Acquaintance

You were a nice companion for a while, but ultimately, forgettable.

Literary Matchmaking

The Haunted (The Haunted #1)

For another average haunted house story, try The Haunted, by Danielle Vega.

Asylum (Asylum #1)

Another building with creepy features is Asylum, by Madeleine Roux.

The May Queen Murders

The May Queen Murders, by Sarah Jude is a creepy, ghostly mystery.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher. Or did I? I swear, it was right here. At any rate, I didn’t get paid. Ah, here it is. No, wait…

Brian wrote his first YA novel when he was down and out in Mexico. He now lives in Missouri with his wonderful wife and daughter. He divides his time between writing and working as a school librarian. Brian still misses the preachy YA books of the eighties.