Riley's Ghost

Middle school turns into a real-time horror story for one lonely girl in this dark yet ultimately hopeful middle-grade novel.

Watching her middle-school peers "stumble through each other's hormonal fogs" is bad enough for seventh-grader Riley Flynn. But going it alone ever since her best friend Emily ditched her at the end of sixth grade is enough to make her lonely, depressed and so angry she occasionally acts out. When one evening a "band of vindictive volleyballers"--including Emily--lock her in the science room supply closet with half-dissected frogs, Riley knows there is no one in the world who will come to her rescue, including her parents, who are both working. Horrifying though her situation is, she couldn't anticipate how much worse it would get when not one, but two ghosts with unresolved business show up. Max, in the form of a "half-eviscerated zombie frog," promises he doesn't want to hurt her. But Heather? The long-dead former middle-schooler who, like Riley, was bullied and abandoned by friends? Riley's not so sure of her intentions.

John David Anderson (Posted; Ms. Bixby's Last Day) spins a spine-tingling ghost story that captures the sadness and loss of being left behind, for the living as well as the dead. Movie-worthy scenes in the dark school halls alternate with chapters about Riley's struggles to control her impulses and, in a word, survive middle school. Creepy ghosts or not, middle school is no picnic for many kids; Riley's Ghost might make them feel seen. --Emilie Coulter, freelance writer and editor

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