ARC Review: A Curious Tale of the In-Between by Lauren DeStefano

Monday, 10 August 2015
A Curious Tale of the In-Between (Pram #1), by Lauren DeStefano
Publication: September 1, 2015, by Bloomsbury USA Childrens
Genre: Middle-Grade Fiction, Fantasy, Ghosts
Pages: 240
Format: ARC
Source: BEA/Publisher

Pram Bellamy is special—she can talk to ghosts. She doesn’t have too many friends amongst the living, but that’s all right. She has her books, she has her aunts, and she has her best friend, the ghostly Felix.
Then Pram meets Clarence, a boy from school who has also lost a parent and is looking for answers. Together they arrive at the door of the mysterious Lady Savant, who promises to help. But this spiritualist knows the true nature of Pram’s power, and what she has planned is more terrifying than any ghost.
Lauren DeStefano is beloved by critics and readers alike, and her middle grade debut is lyrical, evocative and not to be missed. 

My Thoughts:

As the summary states, this middle-grade debut surely is evocative. I can't continue that note even further until you all go out and pick up this gothic read. DeStefano's mind and world created is so dark and steampunk-ish. All I picture is grey skies, characters dressed up in bonnets and pretty dresses and did I mention grey skies? It's such a gloomy read filled with grief and discovering who you are, but at the same time it gives readers all of the feels. Any kid would enjoy this book somehow and it's absolutely recommended by me, myself, and I.

In her foreword, Lauren DeStefano describes her state of grief and what inspired her to write this novel. After her latest teen novel, she will have written 6 YA books and I completely understand her reason of switching into middle-grade. Like YA, middle-grade's a pretty new genre that has formed just for children who are still too young to understand/enjoy more mature subject matter. We all need that comfort read to turn to when times are rough, and I firmly believe that this book will become that for many kids. Our heroine, Pram, is eleven years old and she sees ghosts—what else can a kid want to relate to in a story? (Not that many children see ghosts these days...)

"'Don't be in any hurry,' Felix said. "I like you alive. I like the way you see things. It makes you who you are, the way the spirit world makes me who I am." (ARC, page 15)

These characters are eleven years old and they're already so inspirational. That's really cute, if you ask me. And also to mention, this isn't scary by any means. It does have that spooky feel, but you won't be hiding under your covers in case any gorilla-monster will come up and take you away. Lauren did that aspect perfectly—you're in for a wild ride—and it brings us into a mystery of finding your family and discovering how it's okay to be different. NO, this isn't a cheesy concept whatsoever and if you think it is, something's wrong with your taste of books, just saying. *winks*

This story is about Pram Bellamy, short for Pragmatic, an attribute that Pram's mother didn't have at all. Pram's an orphan, as her mother died while giving birth and her father's completely out of the picture as he doesn't even know that Pram exists. Did I mention that she sees ghosts? Her closest friend is Felix, who's a ghost and is the only one who she can talk to. She lives with her two aunts and when it's time for her to actually start attending school (her aunts taught her for a while), she meets Clarence, who also has lost his mom in an accident and together they head off to discover answers from a spiritualist.

Things like this can surely happen to people. That's one of the reasons why I enjoyed this so much, even though it contains lots and lots of fantasy. A ghost killing someone and chasing you? That obviously isn't bound to happen in reality, but some of the book's events seems so real. FRIENDSHIP? Check. A NICE FAMILY? Check. It's complete beauty.

"Clarence. Pram thought of his blue eyes and his sad smile, and the tickets to Lady Savant's Spirit Show in his hand, and then the feel of his hand in hers. She could taste the chocolate-raspberry ice cream he'd bought her, and the haze trimmed." (ARC, page 134)

Pram and Clarence were so freaking adorable. I bet that they'll end up being boyfriend-and-girlfriend one day, or as the series continues. *hopes* I am in full support of boy-girl friendships, especially in literature because we NEVER see enough of that. Fighting in the spirit world and helping each other out? That's cuter than watching two brown bears play fighting. They were always there for each other and now I'm squealing. Damn.

I didn't like Pram's character, sadly. I bet that you now know what's the special ingredient that brought my rating down, and it was that. I usually never have issues with middle-grade heroines/heroes, but in this case, she was disappointing. Too naïve, too gullible, I don't know. She fought for her answers, which was nice, but we didn't get to see that special something coming out of her, you know? But in that case, I'm letting you know that the writing is so descriptive, slow but imaginative. No fantasy author has ever done it that way, I can tell you.

The title of this book makes so much sense now that I've read the story. It speaks to readers, actually. This certainly is the best middle-grade read I've read this year, next to Fuzzy Mud and The Isle of the Lost, and I just can't wait for the next book in the Pram series. I'll fight a ghost to grab a copy of the sequel. I'M JOKING, I'd never do what the brave characters had to go through now that I think about it. Let me go read a cutesy contemporary because I just can't go without thinking about this spooky read. CHILDREN, GO AND LINE UP FOR THIS BOOK WHEN SEPTEMBER 1ST COMES.

*A review copy was provided by the publisher via BookExpo America in exchange for an honest review. Thank you so much!*

What do you think of YA authors going to middle-grade instead? They have the experience, so why not, right? ;)

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