Title: Haint Misbehavin’
Author: Maureen Hardegree
Publication Year: 2010
Genre: Fiction, Young Adult
Source: E-review copy from NetGalley
From the cover:
The start of a fun middle-grade series, The Ghost Handlers, follows Heather Tildy, an Atlanta teen with a troublesome habit of attracting ghosts. Middle-child Heather has enough to worry about with sisters, boys and school. Now that a trouble-making girl from the 1800’s is poking her nose in Heather’s business, her life has taken a supernatural turn for the worse! Before her life can get better, she has to figure out how to help the ghost move on.
I likely would never have heard of this book if it hadn’t bee for the review copy on NetGalley. And it was actually the book’s cover and title that caught my attention, even more so than anything else. It looked different from most YA books that I’ve read lately, a bit less “realistic”, so I went for it.
Sadly, I wasn’t all that impressed in most ways. The storyline was pretty cliche, as was the “mean older sister”, “awkward girl with crush on hot lifeguard”, and “poor misunderstood protagonist” tropes. These were all played out right from the beginning to the end, and at times each was rather irksome because it felt like they overrode the whole rest of the novel and all of the main action.
I was also really annoyed by Heather and her ghost – or “haint” – for the majority of the novel. I couldn’t understand why Heather wouldn’t tell someone about Amy when her family already knows that her aunt sees ghosts. And I definitely couldn’t understand why she let Amy continue to torment her; it actually got so bad that I found it annoying rather than interesting as a plot device.
The one major redeeming factor of Haint Misbehavin’ was the background for Heather’s apparently social awkwardness: her skin’s hypersensitivity. Now, I know that sounds odd as a “redeeming feature”, but stay with me for a minute. Have you ever heard of a protagonist in a book with this problem before? We’re talking, so hypersensitive that even non-cotton material and bra clasps make her break out into hives and uncontrollable itchiness. I know that I sure haven’t. So this was a very unique aspect to the story and a character that I’m sure lots of people could relate to, who might suffer from this kind of problem.
Having said that, someone else might find this book okay, especially those within the age group it’s meant for: 9-12. I don’t usually read much middle grade fiction, so maybe this is par for the course, or better?
I just know that it wasn’t a very good read for me, the characters were annoying and the plot was way too predictable. But your mileage may vary.