ARC Review: A Curious Tale of the In-Between by Lauren DeStefano

Curious TaleTitle: A Curious Tale of the In-Between

Author: Lauren DeStefano

Series: Pram #1

Publisher: Bloomsbury USA

Release Date: September 1, 2015

Genre: Middle Grade, Paranormal

I was provided with an egalley of this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affects the honesty of this review.

It’s very rare that I read a middle grade that I love as much as I loved this book. I have a lot to say about DeStefano’s middle grade debut, so here is your synopsis from Goodreads:

Pram Bellamy is special—she can talk to ghosts. She doesn’t have too many friends amongst the living, but that’s all right. She has her books, she has her aunts, and she has her best friend, the ghostly Felix.

Then Pram meets Clarence, a boy from school who has also lost a parent and is looking for answers. Together they arrive at the door of the mysterious Lady Savant, who promises to help. But this spiritualist knows the true nature of Pram’s power, and what she has planned is more terrifying than any ghost.

1. This was my first DeStefano book, and I know this is middle grade, but wow the writing is gorgeous.

As a middle school teacher, I’m always looking for middle grade books that will challenge my students’ intellect. A lot of times, the language fails to make my students think about what they’re reading. There is a disconnect because kids who are reluctant readers need insanely clever writing and world building. This book has both. The writing was gorgeous and elevated and I can’t say enough about the beauty of the writing in this book. It’ll definitely be recommended to my middle schoolers this school year.

2. Pram is so interesting, even as a newborn child.

From the time we’re introduced to Pram (short for Pragmatic), she is different. She is born dead and brought back to life. Because of this, she has the ability to see and communicate with ghosts. She is in a constant state of in-between, hence the title of this book. She is an insanely smart little girl and she is more well read than most adults I know. She was a fantastic protagonist for this book (and series) because she constantly surprises me not only with her brains, but her curiosity and bravery.

3. When Pram goes to school, she meets Clarence who I also adore.

From the first time Pram meets Clarence, she knows they are a perfect match. Pram is forced to go to school since her aunts are deemed unfit to continue her schooling. During her first day at school, she meets Clarence by trying to sit at his desk at the back corner of the room. He graciously lets her sit there. Then, at lunch, they run into each other again when they’re finding the most secretive and secluded spot in the lunch room. For eleven years old, Pram is very clever and a pretty good judge of character. Better than I was at eleven, anyway. Clarence shows Pram that not everyone at school is cruel as she originally thought they’d be. I really liked that about this book. More about that later.

4. Felix is one of my favorite characters…and he’s dead.

Felix is Pram’s best friend. He lives at the lake next to Pram’s aunts’ 200 year old colonial. They’re constant companions. While Pram’s aunts think that she has an imaginary friend, Pram is communicating with the ghost of a little boy. He is loving, protective, charming, and a little sad. I adored this kid.

5. A lot of this book was focused on the cruelty – or lack thereof – of the living.

When Pram starts school, she is convinced that everyone will be cruel to her. Then, on her first day, she meets Clarence and she starts to see the living as tolerable, if not nice, people. Since she spends a lot of time with the dead (and the elders in her aunts’ homes), she’s kind of awkward at interacting with the living and the young living. When she meets Lady Savant, she uses her great judgment of character and doesn’t reveal much about herself. However, Lady Savant knows things about Pram that she doesn’t let on. She is the cruelest person in the book, yet Pram still ends up feeling sympathy for her. What eleven year old child possesses that kind of empathy? I adored Pram and the story and the villain and the writing…basically everything.

OVERALL: FIVE STARS!!! I can’t wait to recommend this to my students this school year. The ghosts in the book are kind and just want to talk while the living are the real monsters, which was a great way to write this story. I was enthralled the entire time and I loved everything about this book. I can’t wait to see where this story goes and what Pram does with her abilities. Go forth and preorder from your local bookstore or Amazon because you will adore this. It’ll be a fantastic beginning of fall read, especially if you hate summer as much as I (or Lauren DeStefano herself) do.

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3 thoughts on “ARC Review: A Curious Tale of the In-Between by Lauren DeStefano

  1. Kelly says:

    I don’t usually read middle grade fiction, but I keep seeing and hearing about this book everywhere! I’m really thinking about picking up a copy of it when it comes out and giving it a shot!

    • andistrube says:

      I’ve gotten into SOME middle grade, especially since teaching middle school. But I love Percy Jackson and all of Riordan’s books, The Iron Trial was amazing, and I loved Lindsay Cummings’s Balance Keeper series. This book was so incredible and the writing was so elevated. I just ADORED it! Plus the story is so original and creative. I couldn’t put it down!

  2. missprint says:

    I have almost zero tolerance for reading middle grade because I think it just pushes my willing suspension of disbelief too far. But I’m so happy to hear that this one was a winner for you! I gifted an ARC to my BFF so I’m glad to hear it’s a winner. I’ll definitely file it away as a book to consider when it’s booktalking season again at the library.

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