Disclaimer: I received this e-arc from the publisher. Thanks! All opinions are my own.
Book: The House that Whispers
Author: Lin Thompson
Book Series: Standalone
Diversity: Trans MC with anxiety, Sapphic characters, Lesbian characters, Character with Dementia
Recommended For…: middle grade readers, paranormal, horror, contemporary, LGBT, queer
Publication Date: February 28, 2023
Genre: MG Paranormal Horror
Age Relevance: 10+ (religion, deadnaming, sexism, illness, ghosts, misgendering, divorce, anxiety, homophobia, transphobia, death)
Explanation of Above: Christianity is mentioned and shown with a scene or two with prayer. There is deadnaming mentioned, but not shown (check written review for details on that) and the same for misgendering. There is some sexism shown and homophobia and transphobia is mentioned and discussed. There are scenes showing dementia. There are mentions of ghosts. There are a couple of scenes of anxiety and anxiety attacks. Divorce is mentioned and death is also briefly mentioned.
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Synopsis: Eleven-year-old Simon and his siblings, Talia and Rose, are staying the week at Nanaleen’s century-old house. This time, though, it’s not their usual summer vacation trip. In fact, everything’s different. It’s fall, not summer. Mom and Dad are staying behind to have a “talk.” And Nanaleen’s house smells weird, plus she keeps forgetting things. And these aren’t the only things getting under Simon’s skin: He’s the only one who knows that his name is Simon, and that he and him pronouns are starting to feel right. But he’s not ready to add to the changes that are already in motion in his family.
To make matters worse, Simon keeps hearing a scratching in the walls, and shadows are beginning to build in the corners. He can’t shake the feeling that something is deeply wrong…and he’s determined to get to the bottom of it—which means launching a ghost hunt, with or without his sisters’ help. When Simon discovers the hidden story of his great-aunt Brie, he realizes that Brie’s life might hold answers to some of his worries. Is Brie’s ghost haunting the old O’Hagan house? And will Simon’s search for ghosts turn up more secrets than he ever expected?
Review: This has to be one of the most brilliant books I’ve read in regards to how a trans person’s true identity is displayed in the book while they are still in the closet. The book revolves around our MC who is being sent with his siblings to their grandmother’s home while their parents sort through their crumbling relationship. The MC is not out of the closet yet about being trans, but the author does not allow any of the characters to deadname or misgender him in text. They instead are written having internally processed the dialogue and, with the book as their inner monologue, is substituting their true pronouns and name for what is said to them and about them. I loved that approach to the character because it doesn’t feel right when deadnaming and misgendering occur to a trans character by the author themselves. The side plot of the story, however, revolves around the ghosts that reside in the grandmother’s home, which I really liked as a physical/mental manifestation to the anxiety and secrets that are occurring in the home that are now effecting our MC. The book touches on a lot of topics, such as coming out and being true to you. There is a particular quote in the book that goes something like “you’re allowed to have feelings. You know you don’t have to be happy all the time” and I think that particular quote resonates so well not only with middle graders but also older audiences as well. Beyond the amazing level of commentary in this book, I thought the story itself was well written, compelling, and kept me interested throughout. The book has amazing character development and world building as well.
The only issue I would have to say I had with the book is that I feel like it was a bit unresolved at the end and I wanted a little bit more of an epilogue, but beyond that it was amazing.
Verdict: I love it and highly recommend it!