review of middle grade book Suddenly Supernatural

Suddenly Supernatural: School Spirit

by Elizabeth Cody Kimmel

Little, Brown & Company (June 2008)

ISBN-10: 0316066834, ISBN-13: 978-0316066839

Ages 9-12

My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

The undead are ruining my life. I blame my mother.

My mother is a medium. And I don’t mean the kind that fits in between small and large. My mother is your basic incense-burning, Indian-skirt-wearing vegetarian who happens to see and interact with dead people. You cannot imagine the humiliation this causes me, being the junior high newbie that I am. Because here’s the thing–like my uncle Steve who thinks it’s okay to ask me all about the boys in my class, the dead have major boundary issues. When the dead are earthbound and confused and chanelling their anger into ordinary household objects, they’re not really interested in confining their activities to the attention of the person summoning them. No, all those delightful supernatural activities that you see in movies–abrupt temperature changes, earsplitting sounds, and other spirit-induced phenomena–affect everyone unfortuate enough to be living in the house. Namely, me.

Suddenly Supernatural by Elizabeth Cody Kimmel, p. 1-2.

Kat’s mother is a medium–someone who talks to dead people, and relays their messages to the living. Now Kat can hear dead people, too–and it’s the last thing she wants, when she’s trying so hard to fit in at school. She keeps it a secret from her mom for a long time, and tries to deny it to even herself. But eventually Kat tells the important people in her life, and uses her medium talents to help three people–one dead, and two living–including her best friend Jac.

Suddenly Supernatural: School Spirit is a light, fast-paced, easy read. It’s entertaining, though serious paranormal fiction fans may be put off with some of the spoofy paranormal details in the book, such as books rising on their own or rooms growing cold. But for those readers looking for a fun, light read with a paranormal slant, this is the book to pick up.

Kimmel brings a great sense of lightness and fun. Kat’s voice is bouncy, full of quips. Lightness is also created through Kat’s good friend Jac, who wholly supports her and is not weirded out by her medium talents, and by Kat’s very supportive mother. These things will be reassuring for many readers.

Characters are interesting, and show various aspects and habits that help make them more believable or stronger characters, including Kat’s friend Jac, and Kat’s mom. Many readers will identify with that feeling of being an outsider in school, in some way or another, and though this book touches on that feeling, it doesn’t do so very deeply or in a painful way.

Many readers will probably identify with Kat, as she is, aside from being a medium, a normal 13 year old girl with normal worries about fitting in, social interactions at school, friendships, etc. Kat changes throughout the book, moving from someone who didn’t want to admit that she was a medium, to accepting it and drawing on those talents. However, I felt that some of her transformation was lost or not shown in the story, and that we were told it instead.

Much of the story takes place at school, where readers will recognize familiar themes–popular girl who bullies others–though the popular girl is given a small bit of depth with some hints about why her behavior changes. Many readers will enjoy picking up on those hints.

Some of the plot didn’t come together, and some plot threads were lost (such as Kat’s dog, which we never heard about again after the initial main insertion). There were a few plot details that I didn’t believe (such as Kat using a fake paranormal-based threat when she’d overheard something that would give her much more leverage or credence, or Kat thinking her friend Jac could suddenly see spirits). I didn’t always believe Kat’s voice; sometimes her observations and references felt more like an adult’s than a kid’s. But for the most part, Kat’s voice is an enjoyable one. There were also a bit too many popcultural references for me, and they may be lost on some readers. I would have liked just a bit more depth, but that’s me. The lightness works well.

If you’re looking for a supernatural read without a lot of angst, or a book with a strong friendship between two girls, try Suddenly Supernatural. Perfect for summer reading. Recommended.

About Cheryl Rainfield

I write the books I needed and couldn't find as a teen. I write teen fiction--paranormal fantasy and gritty realistic fiction. I'm the author of SCARS (WestSide Books, 2010) #1 ALA QuickPicks, and Governor General Literary Award Finalist, HUNTED (WestSide Books, Oct 2011), STAINED (Harcourt, 2013), The Last Dragon (HIP Books, Sept 2009), and Walking Both Sides (HIP Books, 2011). I also enjoy drawing, surfing the web, connecting with people I like, doing crafts, and being with my dog.
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