Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Spooks are Back in Town

Unraveling Isobel
If you see a ghost, does that make you crazy? Or is the ghost drive you to be crazy? Are ghosts real, or a figment of our imagination? In Unraveling Isobel by Eileen Cook, you get to see just how a girl who grapples with her father's mental illness handles the ghostly happenings of her new home.

Isobel doesn't want to move her senior year, but when her mother suddenly remarries Richard (who Isobel affectionately refers to as Dick), she has no choice. Now she is stuck on an island with a new stepbrother, in a creepy old mansion, and the rumors that Dick's wife and daughter didn't die in a accident after all. It is hard enough being the new girl during your senior year, but when you compound that with the knowledge of your father's schizophrenia, there is no easy way to explain ghostly activity.

Isobel chooses a room in the estate that happens to be Dick's deceased younger daughter's room. She has gotten over the creep factor until weird things start happening in her room. Things move, she swears she sees the little girl, seashells show up all around the house, and finally, during a misbegotten sleep over, a Ouija Board incident leaves Isobel convinced the little girl is haunting the house. The strange happenings around the house are easier to explain for her mother and step-father, though. They just assume she is crazy like her father. The only one who believes there is something strange and inexplicable going on is her step-brother, Nathaniel. Now they have to get to the bottom of everything before Dick packs her off to a mental institution, but how can they when everyone on the island thinks she is crazy. 

While this book had a lot of potential and was a fairly interesting premise, it wasn't all that it was cracked up to be for me. I think it was an interesting ghost story and the twists in the end were great, but the story was a smidge more juvenile than I like. I can't really put my finger on why it felt juvenile, but it did. 

The thing I liked the most were the discussions about Isobel's father's mental illness. There is a stigma out there that having a mental illness makes you irreparably "crazy". There is a point where the queen bee of the school outs Isobel for seeing a therapist (and because said therapist is evil girl's father and she listened through the vent, she also announces Isobel's father's mental condition). Instead of running for the hills (although she really wants to), Isobel stands up and delivers a pretty great, impromptu speech about mental illness. It is straight from the heart, candid, and she stands up to the bully by not letting her father be a "skeleton in the closet". It was a pretty impressive stand she took, and I loved that the mean girl's evil plot backfired when everyone openly supported Isobel. That is the thing I wish our students would understand... when you take the power out of whatever the bully is using against you, you beat them at their own game. It was a pretty powerful experience on multiple levels for Isobel. So while this story wasn't the absolute best for me, I think it is worth putting out there and stocking your shelves with, if for no other reason than to open a dialogue or two about some pretty serious topics.

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