I rarely read middle grade books, but when I heard that Lauren DeStefano was writing one I couldn’t wait to read it. I’m a big fan of her work and, as a writer, I’m inspired by her beautiful prose and captivating stories. I finished A Curious Tale of the In-Between today and it didn’t disappoint. It was beautiful. If middle grade fiction is this good, then I really need to read more of it.
Some of the themes were pretty dark, and no, I’m not talking about the ghosts! A Curious Tale tackles themes like death, mental health and suicide. Some people might find that a bit too much, but I loved this book for it. I’m an advocate of literature being open and willing to discuss topics that are often pushed to one side. Within the first couple of pages I was reminded of Neil Gaiman’s work., or even a Tim Burton film, and I knew I was going to love it.
Lauren weaves other themes through this haunting book. Friendship and family play a big part in the narrative. Pram’s only friend is a ghost, and her aunt’s are concerned about her tendency to talk to ‘imaginary friends’. But Pram is concerned about other things. She’s growing up, and she wants to know the truth about her parents.
I loved Pram’s journey. Her aunts only want what’s best for her, but Pram strikes out on her own. She’s a fiercely independent and intelligent heroine. She has friends at her side, but she’s capable of looking after herself. As she seeks out answers, she builds stronger relationships with others, including Clarence. It was heart-warming to read abut Pram growing up, learning about life, death, love. To draw yet another comparison, I was reminded of Studio Ghibli when these themes were introduced. Another reason to love this book.
A Curious Tale was truly charming. I’m not sure exactly where or when this book was set, but I felt that it had echoes of the Victorian era. Certain elements seemed almost British: people drinking tea with crackers and living in Tudor houses. Cars exist in Pram’s world, but humans haven’t been to the moon yet. I may be jumping to conclusions because I’m British myself (and slightly in love with Victorian settings), but that’s just my interpretation of it. The setting made A Curious Tale feel like a gothic fairy tale. Perfect for a ghost story.
I could go on about how much I loved this book, but to close I’ll just say that Lauren’s writing was fabulous, as always. I’ll leave you with one of my favourite lines from A Curious Tale:
To lose one’s mother was to lose the beginning of one’s life story.