First Lines: “The devil hunters are here for wardrobe.” A small, wiry woman with frizzy, loose-cotton hair darts toward me. Jane is what her name is. Production manager, which means she’s the boss. Right under Aunt Maggie, anyway, who is basically the boss of this whole weirdo world.
I received an ARC of this from the publisher in return for a review. (The official release date is October 13, just in time for some Halloween fun!) The premise of this completely grabbed me and there was no way I was turning down a free ARC.
Before this summer, Winnie had never met her famous aunt Maggie, a high-profile reality TV producer. And Winnie still wouldn’t have met Maggie if Winnie’s mom hadn’t committed suicide that leaves Winnie stunned and lost. Maggie takes Winnie in for the summer as a production assistant on her show Fantastic, Fearsome, a reality show about ghost hunters. At first, it seems like it’ll be somewhat fun. But things start to get increasingly weird on set as Winnie can’t explain away some of the things she’s seeing and hearing. A nonbeliever to the core, Winnie doesn’t know what to think. But what will Winnie do when the things she’s hearing and seeing start to look like they’re coming from her mother?
Let me outline for you what I thought was cool about this. 1) a fairly cynical look at ghost reality shows. I loved watching them as a teenager, from the more believable Ghost Hunters to the more hilarious Ghost Adventures. I was all in for this, especially with Winnie’s cynical nonbeliever stance on the whole thing. 2) unexplained things happening on set. I kind of love stories where nonbelievers have to deal with things that may make them believe in exactly what they don’t want to believe in. Call me odd.
What was awesome about this book was that it really did stay true to Winnie’s cynicism about the whole reality TV thing. She thought it was fake and crap; and it was. And Winnie’s in a place mentally where she’s struggling to know what she believes, since her mom’s suicide was so sudden and unexpected that she keeps questioning how she missed the signs. But it’s awesome because even though you know all this stuff on set is fake, there’s still something about it that makes you edgy.
This book also definitely plays into cliches from horror films. But it does so really well. Winnie is a fan of horror films, so she keeps trying to apply what she knows about the genre to what she’s seeing on set. She points out the tropes and how she doesn’t want to be like a girl in a horror movie. I really appreciated that this book played with this because it felt really tongue-in-cheek and it didn’t feel so cliche when Winnie was pointing them out.
I did struggle a little with the format of the story. It’s mostly told in something like a letter or a journal to Winnie’s friend back home, Lucia. So just about every page, something is addressed to Lu or Lucia. On top of that, most chapters also break out of that into scripts, transcripts of interviews, or letters from characters other than Winnie. It was sometimes hard to make that switch from one to the other and figure out how we got to that jump.
Oh, there are also pictures in this book, near each chapter. In that way, it’s kind of like the Miss Peregrine books, but with drawings instead of photographs. Because I have an ARC, I don’t think all of the pictures were in. (Also, my Kindle is at least like, 4 years old, so pictures aren’t exactly its strong suit. So I want to reserve my judgement on the pictures.)
But overall, it’s a ghost story that is just a little unsettling and a lot fun.
(Technical difficulties. Once I get them figured out, I will put the picture in.)