My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I won this book from GR in return for an honest review. I really enjoyed this take on the haunted house trope. True, as some reviewers have said, it's hardly a unique idea but I thought it was well executed and I very much liked Trevor Riddell, the point of view character. It takes place when Trevor is 13/14 years old (but narrated at a much older age).
Trevor's family is falling apart. His father and mother are separated (she moving back to England) after his dad lost his job and their house. They move to Washington to the Riddell family house and Trevor meets for the first time his Grandfather Samuel and his dad's sister, Serena. It quickly becomes apparent that this family is highly dysfunctional and has been for generations. Serena is strongarming Jones (Trevor's father) into helping her move their 'demented' father out of the house so they can tear it down and build a high end housing plan in spite of the fact that Elijah Riddell, the lumber baron former patriarch wanted it to become a park once the house got too old to save.
Samuel believes Isobel, his long-dead wife, dances for him in the ballroom. Trevor, dubbed Clever Trevor by his bizarre aunt, is quick to learn a few things: Serena is all kinds of messed up, running hot and cold and worse, purposely tries to get a sexual rise out of her nephew on several occasions just to mess with him. That the house really is haunted and his father has deep-seated issues with his own father.
Trevor is often left on his own to explore the vast estate and he begins having dreams that reveal to him (both in dream and in journals he found thanks to those dreams), that the house is in fact haunted by his Great-Uncle Ben. Some reviewers whined about Trevor looking up the facts about the house and all I can say to that is don't judge all teens by your lazy standards. I know a lot of teens who would have. I would have. And in 1990, this meant going to the library and what not.
Trevor learns that Ben was caught in the traps laid for heirs to fortunes in the early twentieth century. Elijah expected him to marry money and make heirs of his own and to that end arranges a marriage straining an already strained relationship (Ben hated how his father treated people and the environment, begging him to turn the house back to nature). It's complicated by the fact that Ben is already in loved with someone else. Harry. A gay relationship in 1900 goes just about as well as you would expect, that is to say not at all.
But tragedy isn't done with the Riddells as Trevor finds out. A fourteen year old boy is the only person in the messed up family trying to do right. It ends pretty much where I expected it to. I enjoyed the ride. I was wondering though how these journals survived the mice but that's a minor thing. Trevor is clever and likeable (as are Ben and Harry)and I liked his story.
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