I think I read this one before THE ANIMAL REBELLION, but that one was so irritating, the review was much easier. THE LOCKED ROOM wasn’t half as bad, so this may actually take some thought.
I don’t remember the main character’s name at all, but she, her younger brother, and her mother have just moved across the country to live with her mother’s new husband after a whirlwind romance. The protagonist misses her father and home, but they’re actually back in her mother’s hometown, so her favorite aunt and uncle live nearby.
As with a lot of cheesy children’s novels from the 90s, the protagonist notices something weird about her stepfather almost immediately, but her mother won’t listen. He mostly seems to be trying for friendly but has major bursts of temper over minor things, like a drink spilled on his jacket. If you read my review of THE ANIMAL REBELLION, I mentioned that these books use fairy tales as bases for their stories, so can you guess which one inspired this novel? Did I mention that the stepfather’s last name was ‘Beard?’ Yes, this is a modern retelling of Blackbeard!
As usual, the protagonist has an exaggerated temper, but I think it’s to add drama, maybe? I really don’t think she should have gotten in trouble for getting angry when her younger brother dropped her locket into a passing trash bag and she had to rush to dig it out. That’s gross and a pretty nasty thing to do. The kids obviously do team up when they get bad vibes from the stepfather and, oh by the way, did I mention that the house is haunted by the previous wives? Yeah, that’s also a thing, and it’s definitely not one of those books where the narrator may be imagining it. The favorite aunt sees something while over for dinner, even if she brushes it off. While the kids don’t seem to think anything of it, I also had the impression that the aunt wasn’t too impressed with the whirlwind-ness of the romance.
Overall, this is one of the better installments in this series. The ghostly appearances are typical for this type of book but not over-done or too subtle. There is enough build-up that the ending action doesn’t seem rushed, and the characterization isn’t any worse than other 90s kids novels or movies. Too, the ending makes a surprisingly amount of sense, with a wee bit of foreshadowing, even!