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The Social Potato Reviews

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The Screaming Staircase - Jonathan Stroud

Man, this book was awesome and impressive. To be honest, although there are a lot of good MG stuff out there, I'm still a bit wary of this demographic because there is a fair amount of books out there in this category that is absolutely juvenile. But The Screaming Staircase screamed unique, it screamed different, it screamed FANTASTIQUE! in big, bold letters. There is so much to love in this book: the endearing, well-polished characters; the enchanting, well-written narration; and the hypnotic, effective atmosphere. LOVE LOVE LOVE!

One thing you should know about me is that I love a good scare. I relish the feeling of getting creeped out as it's one of those sensations that make me feel so alive. When I'm with friends and we're having sleepovers, I love sharing ghost stories with them, to the point that I suggest we go out ghost-hunting in supposedly haunted places (which was never realized, by the way... in the end, we become wussies) and sometimes, I even have the audacity to encourage using an ouija board to communicate with otherwordly beings (also never realized... the chances of it backfiring are rather high!). Long story short, I love horror. From movies to real life experiences, I've seen them all. But for some reason, books with ghosts never made me feel as scared. Most often than not, the horror factor in these books is utterly laughable, and I find myself disappointed over and over again.

But goodness, The Screaming Staircase totally changed all that. I can sincerely say this is better written than a lot of Young Adult novels out there.

The world is plagued with ghosts, ever since The Problem started, and the government has been using kids to find and exterminate them. Why kids? Because since their senses are still developing, they are more sensitive to these kinds of things. One of these agencies is Lockwood and Co., and independent organization (meaning free of adult supervision) run by three people - Anthony Lockwood, George Cubbins, and Lucy Carlyle. Together, they run into a lot of obstacles and a lot of mysteries, some of them possibly changing their lives forever.

For a Middle Grade book, this is dark, gritty, and quite violent. I was honestly expecting something a bit more mellow and gentle, maybe a simple ghostly apparition of a harmless ghost, but damn, the ghosts here are not just fucking scary but they are dangerous, too. There are different types, and the most dangerous ones can change their appearances and can kill. They can touch you and the area touched will rot. Of course, a lot of the ghosts ARE harmless, but there are a number of them, those who died violently and whose energies are still contained in certain objects, who can really make you think twice about engaging them. I loved how it gave me that violent sense of urgency and suspense, how it made me want to hide under the covers, and how it actually made me open my lights before sleeping.

I guess the writing is a factor of that, too, considering how it was so effective in giving the book a spooky atmosphere. Sure, there are instances where it's light-hearted and fun, but in the scenes that matter the most, it has done an excellent job of immersing you in the story and making you feel you are with the characters as they explore the haunted places. The description of the surroundings, the description of the feelings they feel when they sense a dangerous entity is near, the internal narration of the main character, Lucy... all of it were absolutely BRILLIANT. I cannot stress this enough. I've read a lot of horror in my time, but none of them EVER made the mood right, at least, not as effective as Stroud has done.

The characters were fun to read as well. Lockwood was adventurous, brave, reckless, and calm; George was sarcastic, cynical, intelligent, and cautious; Lucy was endearing, talented, and emotional. They're all so different in many ways, but together as a group, they were amazing and blended beautifully. It was fun to see them banter, protect each other, sort out the puzzles, etc. etc. Just for their dynamics and interaction alone, this book's already worth it.

Honestly, I have troubles deciding which is this book's strongest asset - the narration, the characters, or the mood/atmosphere? All of them were absolutely well done and written that's it's hard to pick. It's that amazing. I absolutely recommend this to everyone, especially those who want to give themselves a good scare or want to read something unique, fun, and dark at the same time.

No doubt a perfect 5 over 5!