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What the Dead Want by Norah Olson
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What the Dead Want

by Norah Olson

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Showing 5 of 5
This book could have been better. The author left a lot of questions unanswered, the ending fell flat, and some things just didn't make sense. I did enjoy the historical aspect of it. If you are looking for a quick, spooky read you'd like it, but don't expect it to be spectacular. ( )
  amyghilton | May 11, 2018 |
What's It About?
Haunting photographs and dark family secrets...A love of photography, an old camera, and countless questions...these are all that sixteen-year-old Gretchen has left of her mother, who mysteriously disappeared years ago. Now she must return to the place where her mom vanished—a decaying mansion that Gretchen has suddenly inherited from her great-aunt Esther. However, Gretchen won’t find the answers she’s seeking without unraveling the secrets that lurk inside the house. There are stacks of photographs and letters from her ancestors that go back centuries, pointing to some kind of haunting past. But when proof of the mansion’s dark history appears to Gretchen in the form of ghostly visions and the soft, eerie whisper of her mother’s voice, there’s no doubt that something sinister has taken place there. No matter how scared she might be, Gretchen must somehow uncover the reasons why this indescribable force has descended upon her family and find a way to set everyone...even the dead...free.

What Did I Think?
It was a YA novel so I wasn't really expecting it to be much more than just a good ghost story...which it was. I found parts of it to be somewhat slow and drawn out...while other parts seemed overly rushed. Gretchen and her two friends, that she had only just met, discovered the families secrets in two days. That just didn't seem possible as those secrets had been buried for 200 years.

I didn't dislike the book but it had potential to be so much more. If you are looking for something light with just a bit of a creepy tone to it, you're definitely going to enjoy this one. ( )
  Carol420 | Sep 5, 2017 |
** spoiler alert **

Overall I liked this book quite a bit. There were a couple of things that bothered me, so I'll just get those out of the way. Gretchen is 16. And her dad and mom's best friend are fine with sending her out to the country and letting her stay there after, second thing that bothered me, her great aunt Esther commits suicide by drinking developing fluid in front of her. No discussion of any trauma, not to mention the ghosts and Esther not revealing why she wanted her to come. The next problem is Hawk and Hope not having any adults around either. This seems to happen a lot in YA books. If Gretchen had been older, say, 18, it wouldn't have been a big deal. It was also odd that, coming from an artistic family with the last name of Axton, it would never have occurred to Gretchen to ask, or notice, that E.E. Axton, the famous photographer, had the same last name.

Other than those things, I actually really did enjoy the book. I thought it had an interesting story (and a timely one), and a good mystery. Gretchen wasn't spoiled or awful, and she really threw herself into solving the mystery once Hope and Hawk got involved. Once the reason behind their deaths was figured out, it was even possible to feel sympathetic toward Celia and Rebecca, and how their understanding of what had happened had driven them with such anger for all those years. I enjoyed the details of Fidelia's journals and her desire to help rescue runaway slaves.

Most of the rough/hard to believe things were in the beginning, and after that, the book rolls along at such a pace that I was simply caught up in it. The history behind the story was well-developed, and I liked the fact that Valerie and Fidelia were related.

I actually think that this might be a good book to try to get kids uninterested in history to possibly get a little more involved in learning about the Civil War period, even though it only brushed on that with James's death. It might spur some kids into taking a closer look by getting them involved in a more personal story and linking to the Underground Railroad, etc ( )
  waclements7 | Jan 16, 2017 |
Gretchen's adventures begin when she receives a phone call from a great-aunt she doesn't remember inviting her to come visit the mansion in upstate New York that she will be inheriting. Gretchen is eager to visit, grabs her camera and takes off. But things are not what she expects. The mansion is falling to pieces but also stuffed with family history - and ghosts, lots and lots of ghosts.

Gretchen's mother who disappeared almost five years earlier was a photographer who collected sample of Victorian spirit photography. Her mother believed that the camera could sometimes see things that the naked eye cannot. Gretchen is also a photographer who shares some of her mother's beliefs.

Shortly after Gretchen arrives, her aunt commits suicide leaving her with the task of laying those many ghosts to rest. Gretchen is exploring some of the family history, particularly the diary of Fidelia who lived around the time of the Civil War and who was deeply involved in the Underground Railroad. We also learn what it was like for a woman living in the time and place with no freedom, no opportunities, and no choices. Excepts from Fidelia's journals are salted through this story. The book also has a number of photographs (only some of which made it to my Kindle eARC) that enhance the moody and spooky atmosphere of this story.

Aiding Gretchen in her quest are neighbors Hope and Hawk who are orphaned descendants of some of the blacks who settled in the area after escaping slavery. One of their ancestors was Fidelia's best friend. The kids are in something of a time crunch. The anniversary of a fire that destroyed a local integrated church and killed Fidelia, her friend, and Fidelia's daughter and her friend's daughter along with many of the black residents of the area is coming soon and ghostly activities are becoming more frequent and more dangerous.

This was a great story. I enjoyed this peek into a part of America's history that needs to me made more visible. As one of the characters says, "We learn history so we can break with the past, not repeat it." ( )
  kmartin802 | Jun 7, 2016 |
When you're exposed to it since childhood, then there's no rhyme or reason why you won't accept it immediately. I would have gone to the nearest house, use their phone to call my aunt and a car service and a demolition crew, no matter how crazy my great-aunt was insisting me to stay. And I would have destroyed the salamin pronto the minute I saw it. ( )
  Ayanami_Faerudo | Mar 14, 2016 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0062410113, Hardcover)

Haunting photographs and dark family secrets make this second spine-tingling novel from Norah Olson the perfect read for fans of creepy, suspenseful teen fiction.

A love of photography, an old camera, and countless questions—these are all that sixteen-year-old Gretchen has left of her mother, who mysteriously disappeared years ago.

Now she must return to the place where her mom vanished—a decaying mansion that Gretchen has suddenly inherited from her great-aunt Esther. However, Gretchen won’t find the answers she’s seeking without unraveling the secrets that lurk inside the house. There are stacks of photographs and letters from her ancestors that go back centuries, pointing to some kind of haunting past. But when proof of the mansion’s dark history appears to Gretchen in the form of ghostly visions and the soft, eerie whisper of her mother’s voice, there’s no doubt that something sinister has taken place there.

No matter how scared she might be, Gretchen must somehow uncover the reasons why this indescribable force has descended upon her family and find a way to set everyone—even the dead—free.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 01 Feb 2016 18:01:15 -0500)

"Inheriting a love of photography, an old camera and countless questions years after the disappearance of her mother, 16-year-old Gretchen returns to a decaying family mansion, where ancestral photos and letters dating back centuries reveal her family's haunted past."… (more)

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