Josie, Fox, and Mason live in the most haunted town in America, but the only strange things Josie ever saw were the few weird customers that came to her family’s auction house. When they get their hands on a haunted camera that prints pictures of a ghost of the recently deceased local hermit, they are drawn into a one hundred year old mystery.
It sounds exciting from the back copy, but my interest waned before I even made it half way through.
I was barely a quarter of the way through Mothman’s Curse before I was overwhelmed with things to keep track of. The haunted camera, Fox’s auction house, the Goodrich estate and its history, the Mothman and his history, and all the characters: Josie, Fox, and Mason, who are heavily invested in what’s going on; Mitch, an ex-college student who is helping out the family who conveniently used to work on the Goodrich estate; Uncle Bill and Aunt Barb, who help out because the main characters’ mother is dead; and Dad, who runs the auction house. Plus, technically, Mr. Goodrich, who is haunting the camera, and Eva, the hairdresser who used to work at the Goodrich estate.
That’s nine character within ten chapters in a middle grade novel. I can’t imagine my pre-teen aged self bothering to read much further than I made it.
Compare this to other middle grade pieces: in Harry Potter we had Harry, the Dursleys (who operate as a single unit really), and Hagrid; in Heck: Where the Bad Kids Go we had Milton, Marlo, Virgil, Damon, and Principal Bubb.
The secondary characters are almost omnipresent which means Josie, Fox, and Mason aren’t really autonomous. When I pick up a middle grade book I expect to see little adults, kids who make their own decisions, find their own information, and get their own transportation. Not children who give their father puppy dog eyes so they can go to an old house.
Another issue I had was with Eva, the hairdresser, one of two characters I encountered who just poured information out of her mouth. At one point, Josie and Fox visit Eva because they learned that she used to work at the Goodrich estate (shocking, really). I think Eva must have been a religious leader in a past draft, either that or Christine Hayes has never been to get her hair cut. What hair dresser do you know who would say:
“Mr. Goodrich was forever changed.”
“Stories tell of a man who dealt in dark magic to preserve his life, and to punish a lost love.”
As someone with hair that grows faster than a hydra sprouts a new head I can assure you that I have had many hair cuts in my lifetime and not a single one of my hairdressers ever talked like this.
And Eva tried to steer Josie and Fox away from the Goodrich estate in a very “don’t go to the old cemetery and bury your pet” sort of way.
I tried to make it at least halfway through this but if I were its target audience’s age I’d have put it down before that. In the end, I made it 40% of the way in, long past the point that my interest should have been piqued.