Reading Level: Middle Grade
Length: 240 pages
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens
Release Date: September 1, 2015
Stand Alone or Series: 1st book in the Pram series
Source: eGalley through NetGalley.com
Rating: 4/5 stars
I got a copy of this book through NetGalley to review. Previous to reading this book I had read DeStefano’s Chemical Garden series which I really enjoyed. This book is written in DeStefano’s beautiful writing style and is mostly a ghost story.
Pram was dead before she was born. Her mother committed suicide while she was still pregnant with Pram, but the doctors were able to revive Pram. Now Pram lives with her aunts and has the unique ability to see ghosts. In fact her best friend is a boy named Felix. Then Pram’s aunts decide she needs to go to school and while there she meets the quiet Clarence whose mother has just died. Clarence can sense that Pram is special and asks her to help him search for a way to talk to his mother’s ghost. Their search leads them to a spiritualist named Lady Savant. The Lady Savant promises to help, but she knows the true power Pram has and what the Lady Savant wants to do with Pram is scarier than any ghost could be.
This is a middle grade novel that deals a lot with death. So just a heads up there is discussion of suicide, depression, madness, and (of course) death throughout. DeStefano explains in the foreword that she wrote this book to help one of her young nieces (I think it was a niece) deal with the death of a loved one. There were some elements of this book that reminded me a bit of The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman.
Pram (whose full name is Pragmatic) definitely reflects her namesake. She is very intelligent and quickly realizes that she is the only one who sees ghosts, she knows it’s not normal and knows that she needs to be careful or people will think she is crazy. Meeting Clarence is a relief for Pram because he is so very interested in tracking down ghosts that he sees Pram as special and interesting.
I absolutely adored the friendship between Pram and Clarence; they are so kind and understanding and supportive of each other. They both need each other so badly and their friendship is so important. Clarence is desperate to find his mother’s ghost and Pram is desperate to figure out where her father is.
Felix is a wonderful character as well and adds an interesting twist to the story. He’s a young boy who doesn’t want to remember his life and that’s an interesting thought. Maybe sometimes these ghosts of Pram’s are happier as ghosts than they ever were alive, which is sad but thought-provoking.
This is both a story about coming of age and about friendship. At the beginning of the book Pram is constantly trying to find where she belongs, but as the story continues she finds out maybe she’s been searching too hard.
There are some parts of the story that might be a bit scary for younger children in the middle grade age set. The idea of a parent killing themselves can be a shocking one for some kids. The fact that Pram is kidnapped and hurt is also a bit scary.
Overall I really enjoyed this book, it was a sweet ghost story. It’s a quick read and has some wonderful discussion on friendship as well as an excellent coming of age story. I loved the ghosts and Pram’s power and am excited to see how Pram uses her developing powers in future books. I would definitely recommend to those who love bittersweet ghost stories.
This book goes towards the following reading challenges:
– You Read How Many Books? Reading Challenge