A Properly Unhaunted Place by William Alexander, 192 pp, RL 3
Purchased from Barnes & Noble
Rosa Díaz is the daughter of Athena Díaz, the renowned librarian appeasement specialist in a world where the presence of restless ghosts is the norm. It is Athena's job to calm the ghosts and show them proper respect, in the process finding them appropriate places to reside. Growing up the daughter of appeasement specialists in a world of ghosts, observant, smart Rosa has skills and talents of her own. And she also knows the costs of trying to banish ghosts instead of appease them, having lost her father when he attempted - and failed - at that very thing. And maybe that's why Athena decided to move to Ingot, the only town around without poltergeists, specters, and spirits.
However, the properly unhaunted town of Ingot doesn't stay that way for long. At the town's very inaccurate Renaissance Festival, Rosa and her new friend Jasper Chevalier, squire to Sir Morien (a.k.a. Sir Dad) encounter a rampaging specter that is quickly forgotten by all, despite the trail of destruction left behind. When her mother is left, literally, speechless, Rosa is left on her own (well, she does have the help of Jasper and the protection of her patron librarian, Catalina de Erauso) to unravel the mystery of this unhaunted place, get her mother's voice back and maybe even appease a few ghosts in the process.
With A Properly Unhaunted Place, Alexander does a swift and masterful job of world building - both a world where ghosts and hauntings are common and the one town where they are not. In Rosa, he has created a hero that I want to get to know better. At appropriate times throughout the novel, Rosa responds by saying nothing, and saying it "loudly." She is stoic and smart and fully prepared to take over when the adults in her life let her down. In his timidity and innocence, Jasper is a good foil for Rosa (who knows quite a bit about fencing, thanks to her patron librarian). The interactions with the spirit threatening Ingot are inventive and suspenseful, with Murphy's marvelous illustrations taking the edge off the fright factor. With the story happening entirely in Ingot, I found myself wanting to know more about the world outside of Ingot where humans and ghosts coexisted, as well as the complexities of hauntings. I also wanted to know more about Rosa's father, his work and his death. Happily, a second book in what I hope will be a series has just been published!