Title: The Dead of Winter
Author: Chris Priestley
Intended audience: Middle-grade
Date Read: 01/10/19 – 03/10/19
Ah man. I was really looking forward to a spooky haunted house story here, and while I knew it was middle-grade, I didn’t think that would affect my enjoyment. How can you go wrong with orphan boy dealing with a haunted house at Christmas?
I want to say that I absolutely think that I would have found this a lot spookier if I had read it when I was ten or eleven, and that I feel this is one of those books that doesn’t quite transcend its target age group (some MG books don’t, and that’s fine).
As it was, I felt that it was a bit of a checklist of haunted house tropes. We had the ghost of a pale woman in a shift out on the moors, we had banging from within the walls, we had footsteps in the corridor, we had shadowy figures in mirrors… It was all there and yet apart from a couple of scenes, I never really felt like any one haunting was gone into in any depth, nor did it feel like anything particularly new was being done.
The other thing that was while this is ostensibly about a young boy, it is written from the perspective of an older man looking back on something that happened when he was small. I couldn’t help thinking that emulating a Gothic style narration was probably not the way to interest young readers. The last chapter and the epilogue are set years later after Michael has grown up, and I don’t know that MG readers will consider that a satisfactory ending.
But at the end of the day, while this book wasn’t for me, I can’t say what the target audience would think. It’s highly possible that they would find it a lot more enjoyable.