The story goes that Adam’s mother has inherited a mansion, so Adam and his family move into it. However, Adam, who can see ghosts and their auras, meets an unfriendly ghost who lives in the mansion. The ghost’s name is Edward Lawrence. He has lived in the mansion since his death in 1945 and doesn’t want Adam moving in with him.

The character of Edward the ghost is well-crafted and consistent in being presented as slightly uppity and well-spoken. Bad spirits from other worlds are shown to be defeated by good spirits and angels. The ghost struggles to be kind despite being in opposition to Adam whom he wants out of his house. Edward eventually uses his powers to send evil warrior spirits to try to get rid of Adam and his family. So the conflict between Adam, who wants to stay in his new house, and Edward the ghost, is what drives the story.

Although recommended on most websites for 9-12 year olds, the troubling and dark aspects of this book cause me to hesitate recommending it to children of this age. Has childhood really become so serious that a child’s book must be devoted to a paranormal consultant for a TV series called Ghost Whisperer? Where has the irony and humour gone from spooky children’s stories? Where are the layers of meaning that we enjoy going over again and again to find some new aspect hidden within? Where has the basic child-like fun gone from ghost stories, and when did they take the step of entering into a dark world of spirits and reincarnation? Has death been so normalised that children who can see spirits and then die to get to the spirit world seem ok?

Parts of the story kept me interested enough to read on. However, in the end I felt this to be a story written from an adult perspective and watered-down so that it will appeal to children. The plot only just survives, but is in the category of just another spirit book like so many that have emerged after Harry Potter. Author Sally Gould had the bones of the story right, but I believe she needs to dig deeper into her own child-like memories to find a more emotionally resonant story. The story does not feel like one of those books kids are drawn to and want to read over and over again. I found the motivation and interaction of the two main characters, Adam and Eddie, to be a little contrived. Adam did not seem truly frightened by having a rather malicious ghost present in his home. The story was not alive with symbols, subtle twists, buried jokes, variations or anything else.

The book’s blurb says it is about a “bossy ghost”, which is correct, but this makes it seem a light-hearted story when in fact it is quite dark in parts. I would not give it to my 9 year old to read. There is discussion of Edward being unhappy that he died at age 14, and the idea that spirits can be dangerous and cause the deaths of people who are alive, is introduced.

At one point, Adam slips on seaweed and a wave crashes down on him. He promises himself he will go straight into the light rather than watch his own funeral. As his lifeless body is suddenly sucked out to sea, he has a sense of the “beauty” of the moon. This whole experience is presented in an almost alluring way which can easily confuse young minds into thinking death is seductive and appealing. The ghost tells Adam that he deliberately chose not to go “into the light” which is where dead people usually meet up with spirits of people they loved during life. Rather, Eddie the ghost chose to remain roaming around the house he lived in, easily irritated and demanding Adam and his family leave. This provides an interesting conflict to the story, but dealing with dead children still restless and unhappy, the notion of reincarnation and the experience of dying and going to fight in the world of spirits are heavy subjects. St. Michael the Archangel is invoked at one stage which could be considered a “nice” aspect to the story, but to me it just shows the seriousness of the darker sides to the book. At one point the action resembles a typical horror movie.

A former children’s librarian, Jane Fagan is a full-time wife and mother of two.