A Curious Tale of the In-Between by Lauren DeStefano
Looking for your next stay-up-late, just-a-minute-mom, only-one-more-chapter-I-swear, read? Look no further.
The circumstances of Pram’s birth have left her a bit different. As long as could remember she’s been able to see ghosts, one of whom happens to be her closest friend. Since her mother died at her birth and her father has never been around, Pram lives with her terribly overprotective aunts who worry about her dreadfully. In fact, they have shied away from sending her to school, worried that she won’t fit in with the other kids.
But when the schoolmarm appears at their home and insists that Pram attend school, they don’t have a choice. Off she goes. Soon enough, she befriends Clarence, a boy who has recently lost his mother. Their losses and interest in the spirit world soon bonds them together. Clarence repeatedly seeks out people who might help him contact his mother and Pram is looking for a friend to help her find her father, so they become a team with Pram’s ghostly friend Felix forming a jealous third wheel.
In her effort to help Clarence, Pram meets mysterious, Lady Savant and soon things are spiraling out of her control. What was meant to be an adventure to seek her father has taken a dangerous turn. Pram will learn much about her connection to the spiritual world, but it will take a lot of save her from the evil that awaits her.
With all of the ghosts and adventure, the heart of this story is about friendship, love and home. Clarence and Pram’s friendship is almost a pre-romance in a terribly chaste age appropriate way. Pram’s search for her family is resolved in a very heartwarming way and one that is maybe a bit less pat and traditional than you might expect.
A Curious Tale of the In-Between is terribly hard to put down. In the early chapters, intrigue about Pram’s circumstances and abilities keep you turning the pages. Later you long to know if Pram or Clarence will find the parental contact they are seeking. And of course, once Pram is in danger, you just can’t rest until you have a resolution. It’s very much a “oh, just one more chapter” read, where you find out that one more chapter somehow turned into 4 or 5 more chapters and it’s way past your bedtime. So if you like that sort of thing, the kind of book that you can’t bear to stop reading, then this is definitely for you.
Age Recommendation: Grades 5-8. Oh certainly, many fourth graders will read and love this, but because there is a suicide (which is sort of talked around a bit, and might be just vague enough that younger readers would miss it), I would hold off until fifth, unless the reader is well known to you and you know they can handle it. I also very much appreciated the subtle references to depression as an illness. It isn’t often written about, especially not in books that are generally lighter in tone, but it is something lots of kids deal with in real life.
Sex, Nudity, Dating – Pram’s mother fell in love with a sailor and “that was how Pram was conceived”. She is told that she’ll have a “lovely shape” and be an “early bloomer” by an old woman. Pram is teased about a “boyfriend”. There is handholding. A waitress makes a comment about Pram being a bit young to be looking for a sailor. Her intent is a lewd joke, but Pram does not understand. This book also features a friend-triangle and the most itty bitty age appropriate fledgling romance. It’s never quite clear that the people in question will become more than friends but their importance to each other is not downplayed.
Profanity – None.
Death, Violence and Gore – The opening scene explains how a pregnant woman was found dead, hung from a tree. A girl can see and speak with ghosts. She can perceive the dead’s influence all around her. A character’s mother died in a car accident. Old people die. A woman supposedly can communicate with the dead. A person likely committed suicide. A person nearly caused the death of another while taking their own life. There’s a mention of people who do “unspeakable things” to children. Some is trapped in a container under water and left to drown. One ghost has a blackened and bloody temple and died in a fire. An animal is hit by a car. A girl sings a song about a poor lamb having its eyes picked out. A woman’s skull shows through her skin. A child nearly dies. A child falls into a ravine and drowns.
Drugs, Alcohol and Smoking – None.
Frightening or Intense Things – A girl is put in a trance and controlled by someone. Pram’s mother’s life was quite unhappy. She stopped speaking. A baby is born silent and gray. People are kidnapped. A child’s perception of reality is altered. Boys are in a fire. A girl enters a memory of another person; the memory is of a surgery that was done without that person’s consent.