12-year-old Pepper Connelly leaves her best friend, Chrissie, behind when her family moves from New York City to Santa Cruz, CA. Pepper discovers a boy, Corey, hiding in her backyard shed. Unknown to Pepper, Corey is a ghost trying to contact his grandfather, Boppie, before he crosses over. He tells Pepper he must locate Boppie before Social Services finds him. Pepper agrees to help.
While Pepper’s communication with Chrissie dwindles, her friendship with Corey grows. She tells Corey about her passion for writing songs, and throughout the story, she composes a song about Corey. Corey teaches Pepper to play the harmonica. Soon, she’s torn between finding Boppie and knowing when she does, Corey will certainly go back on the road with his traveling-musician grandfather.
Other characters help her on her quest: new classmate Ally Cressman, who dresses in an odd-ball, non-mall style; Sawtooth Sam, the mysterious saw-playing street musician; and Madame Mchumba, who performs her psychic readings at the Boardwalk amusement park. Earthquakes, haunted house rides, poltergeists, and crystal ball readings propel Pepper toward the end of her search as she learns about the give and take, the heartache and joy, of true friendship.
[Full disclosure: I received a free ebook in conjunction with the blog tour in exchange for an honest review.]
This is definitely a middle grade novel, probably one that’s not really all that suited for teens, but I decided to give The Castle Blues Quake a try anyway. It wasn’t a bad decision in the end either.
Even though some characters are walking stereotypes, the main characters are at least a little fleshed out. Pepper has had to move to a new house in Santa Cruz from New York City so she’s understandably not happy with the situation. She’s drifting apart from her big city friend but then she makes a new friend: the house ghost, Corey. The only problem? She doesn’t know he’s a ghost and he’s not about to tell her he is either. He’s waiting for his grandfather the whole novel (which would normally make him a boring character) but Corey is actually quite proactive. He and Pepper essentially set out on a quest to bring his grandpa back home, not knowing that grandpa has secrets of his own.
My only real ‘complaint’ about the book is that the secondary characters should have been fleshed out more. Sage, Pepper’s parents, the psychic, etc. Even for a middle grade novel they were surprisingly stiff, like they were cardboard cutouts. All they really served was to move the plot forward at convenient intervals. Pepper’s parents especially seemed pretty oblivious to the goings on of their twelve-year-old so there was a little of that believability factor missing. Still, this is not a bad novel. It’s just not a great one.
I’ve read quite a few stories like this before so the plot was really no surprise at all for me. I don’t want to give spoilers away, but I think it will probably be predictable even for the targeted audience. Still, I like that Linda Covella maintained a decent pace throughout the novel and didn’t belabour the point in her descriptions yet the reader knows what’s going on. As an older reader I felt the believability factor was a little low, but then again I’m not a 9-12 year old and haven’t been for a number of years.
The Castle Blues Quake is not a book made for my demographic, but it’s not a bad book for middle grade children. There are better novels out there, but there are also a lot worse ones. This book didn’t make me gasp in surprise or struggle to catch my breath because it was so beautiful, but it was a solid, generally well-written novel.
I give this book 4/5 stars.