The Agony House

illus. by Tara O'Connor. 272p. Scholastic/Arthur A. Levine Books. Sept. 2018. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780545934299.
Gr 7–10—When 17-year-old Denise's parents move her to New Orleans, planning to fix up an old house and turn it into a bed-and-breakfast, accidents start occurring and Denise quickly realizes that the house is haunted. The classic haunted house story gets an update with a story line involving a 1950's era comic book featuring a female hero that is atypical for its time. Scenes from the comic book, which are sporadically interspersed into the narrative, add visual variety to the story and intensify the mood. Each small horror within the house builds to a large climax and a twist ending as Denise uses the comics to solve a mystery. Readers will empathize with Denise's financial troubles as she and her family struggle to pay for food when all their money goes into the house. The issue of gentrification, particularly in a Hurricane Katrina—affected New Orleans, is woven in, though at times didactically. Text messages (including some dated teen textspeak), emails, and ghost whispers are printed in blue in order to stand out and match the comics' color palette.
VERDICT The format of this ghost story is inviting and while never truly horrifying, younger YA readers will be satisfied with the chills provided.

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