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Ghostlight by Sonia Gensler
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Ghostlight

by Sonia Gensler

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Every summer, Avery and her brother Blake are sent to their grandmother's farm, where they spin stories together about a magical Kingdom. This summer, Blake refuses to play along, telling Avery he's too old for kingdoms and magic. Initially furious, Avery is soon distracted by a boy she finds wandering her grandmother's property, looking to tell stories of his own. He asks her to help him create a movie, and Avery agrees – but once she realizes Julian is intent on making a horror movie set in Hilliard House, a derelict mansion her grandmother has forbidden her to visit, she is scared. Julian teaches Avery about making movies by showing her classic films and explaining different shots and techniques, but each lesson is accompanied by a reminder that they need access to Hilliard House so they can apply what they've learned. Avery slowly warms to Julian's ghost story, but when they finally enter the house to begin filming they uncover the house's own tragic spirit.

Every character in the story has problems that he or she is working through. For Avery, it's learning to recognize and control her temper and coping with the fact that her brother is starting to leave her behind as he grows up. Julian's father is a famous country star, and the celebrity has made it hard for him to talk about his family's problems. Julian himself has several issues that he's learning to deal with through his films.

While Avery and Julian are researching the history of Hilliard House and the identity of the spirit haunting it, they uncover other long-hidden secrets, including a secret marriage, the truth behind the death of a seven year old girl, and an insane mother who may have passed her mental troubles on to her child. Each new twist adds a layer of creepiness to the story.

This middle-grade book will teach readers a lot about film by using examples from psychological horror classics like The Haunting and The Innocents to explain how the director's choice of camera angles, lighting, and shots can shape a movie. It's especially fitting because the story often uses similar techniques to tell its own spooky stories. Julian's excitement cinema is contagious and will encourage some kids to try making their own short films.

Other children might be inspired by Avery's research into the history of Hilliard House to learn more about their own family tree and local landmarks. Her tenacity to chase down the details of what happened in the past is admirable. As she matures Avery also learns to channel her creativity beyond pure imagination into storytelling. ( )
  makaiju | Jan 4, 2016 |
Review courtesy of Dark Faerie Tales

Quick & Dirty: Young teens investigate a haunted house in this spooky and entertaining read. They also learn hard truths about secrets and the power of forgiveness.

Opening Sentence: We’d only been at Grandma’s for five minutes before Blake ruined everything.

The Review:

Ghostlight is a middle grade novel about young teens as they investigate a haunted house in this spooky and entertaining read. They also learn hard truths about secrets and the power of forgiveness. The novel stars Avery, a twelve year old girl, who spends the summers at her Grandma’s house with her brother. Avery has just arrived with her brother when he informs her that they will not be playing the game they made up because he is now too old to play at age fifteen. Avery storms off because of her hurt feelings from Blake. In her fit of anger she sees a strange boy, Julian, about to go into Hilliard House. Hilliard House is the vacant house that Avery’s grandmother warns her to stay away from.

Avery and Julian become fast friends and since Avery has nothing to do all summer, Julian talks her into making a movie. His giddiness and love for film rub off on Avery so much so that she wants to film a movie over her potentially boring summer. Julian wants to film a horror movie and use the Hilliard House as the backdrop. The problem? Avery isn’t allowed to go anywhere near Hilliard House. Plus, they need to get inside the house and Avery’s grandma is the only one with a key. With the help of Julian’s sister Lily they find more inside the house then they ever imagined.

Ghostlight delivers a powerful message about how terrible lies can be and the need for the truth and forgiveness. I will say I was a little surprised by some of the events that happened but overall I would recommend this for a young reader who is interested in film and horror/hauntings.

Avery is a fun and inquisitive girl but she is very temperamental. She starts out as immature and selfish but as the story plays out she begins to learn lessons that are very valuable. I enjoyed Avery’s tenacity even in light of how much trouble she knew she was going to be in. Ghostlight is told entirely through Avery’s first person point of view.

Julian is the same age as Avery’s brother but I often felt that he was closer to Avery’s age. He also has some deep issues that he has to work through and maybe with Avery’s help he may learn a lesson or two. I felt bad for Julian even though he kind of put himself into those situations.

I will say I was surprised by a few events in this novel. A kid shouldn’t have to go through that. I was even surprised how this novel played up the paranormal aspect. I was totally expecting something else. I will say that I connected to this book in a way because I used to spend my summers at my grandparents’ house in Alabama. It was also in the country and there was an abandoned log home nearby that was kind of creepy. I never explored it but after reading this, I wonder what I would have found.

Overall, I would recommend Ghostlight to a young reader who would like to read something a bit paranormal without going all R.L. Stein or Christopher Pike. I didn’t feel like there was anything objectionable and the message delivered was enlightening.

Notable Scene:

I struggled to stand. “Don’t you dare touch me!”

Just as the words came out of my mouth, the bulb on Julian’s forehead shattered. He flew back, slamming against the opposite wall.

“Jules!” cried Lily, dropping the doll.

I scooped up my flashlight and pointed it at him. His body slid down the wall, camera clattering as it hit the tile floor. He lifted a finger to his cheek and it came away streaked with blood.

Lily shrieked.

I turned the light on her. “Shut up!”

A tear spilled out of her eye. “’When you pointed the flashlight…there was a shadow in the mirror. A man’s shadow!”

That strange pressure filled my ears, making them ache, and I gritted my teeth to keep from screaming back at her. “That’s it. Seriously, you can quit the whole act now, because I’m done with this.”

After one last glance at Julian, I stumbled out of the bathroom, leaving them to fend for themselves in the dark.

FTC Advisory: Knopf Books for Young Readers/Random House provided me with a copy of Ghostlight. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review. ( )
  DarkFaerieTales | Aug 6, 2015 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0553522140, Hardcover)

Things that go bump in the night are just the beginning when a summer film project becomes a real-life ghost story!
 
Avery is looking forward to another summer at Grandma’s farm, at least until her brother says he’s too old for “Kingdom,” the imaginary world they’d spent years creating. Lucky for her, there’s a new kid staying in the cottage down the road: a city boy with a famous dad, Julian’s more than a little full of himself, but he’s also a storyteller like Avery. So when he announces his plan to film a ghost story, Avery is eager to join in.
 
Unfortunately, Julian wants to film at Hilliard House, a looming, empty mansion that Grandma has absolutely forbidden her to enter. As terrified as Avery is of Grandma’s wrath, the allure of filmmaking is impossible to resist.
 
As the kids explore the secrets of Hilliard house, eerie things begin to happen, and the “imaginary” dangers in their movie threaten to become very real. Have Avery and Julian awakened a menacing presence? Can they turn back before they go too far?

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 06 Aug 2015 22:13:58 -0400)

A summer film project turns spooky when the setting turns out to actually be haunted.

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