Monday, November 1, 2010
Haint Misbehavin' is a paranormal/fantasy novel in the YA/middle-grade genre, written by Maureen Hardegree and the first in a new series called The Ghost Handler.
Heather Tildy is lounging in the summer before her first year of high school, desperate to get a tan and get the hot lifeguard at the pool to notice her. Not to mention get her older sister to stop hating her. But Heather just isn't that lucky. When a momentous event in her female life occurs, everything kinda falls apart. Because all of a sudden she is seeing a 10-year-old Laura-Ingalls-ish ghost haunting her father's beloved grapevines - and she refuses to leave. And seems to just be tickled by making life pretty darn horrible for Heather. Even more horrible than Heather's insanely sensitive, abnormal skin already makes it.
In the first couple of pages of Haint Misbehavin', Heather is already instantly relatable with her vulnerability, bacne (I shudder at the memory), and sibling rivalry. Her dilemmas and issues are more straightforward and honest than most YA dares to go.
The first-person voice that narrates the entire novel is fun, humorous, and perfect - as far as the age of our main character is concerned. Heather's first encounter with a ghost is funny, and immediately sets the tone for breezy reading. And there is always a place for breezy reading.
I had honestly no idea what "haint" meant in the title - but apparently it means ghost. So, the title is pretty relevant to the plot. It could also be called Boy Crazy & Hormonal - because poor Heather truly is. Again, the truthfulness in the portrayal of this point in a girl's life, dosed with lots of laughter, is startling - because Maureen Hardegree does not shy away from it at all.
There's a slapstick comedy element to Haint Misbehavin' that I could almost say I've never experienced in a book before. Maybe in small amounts, but Heather endures a looooooot of humiliation, as her ghost causes crazy, embarrassing things to happen to her in (what else?) public. I became just as frustrated with the ghost as Heather did! But it's great humor, and Amy (the ghost) does become more sympathetic as the story goes on. Which I thought was next to impossible, so props to the author there. ;)
Haint Misbehavin' is a good, sweet, somewhat predictable but enjoyable read - there's an extremely relatable voice to accompany the over-the-top scenes, and some surprisingly racy yet realistic dialogue to keep it from becoming too sugary.
And with a great last line, I can't help but be very interested in where the Ghost Handler series will go next - hopefully Heather won't have to deal with a ghost that makes her life quite so miserable... but that's probably too much to wish for, right? :)