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The Haunting of Pico

May 7, 2014

The Haunting of Pico by Patrick Kampman

This was my one small publisher purchase from this year’s AggieCon.  This particular publisher managed to slide their application under the wire just as I was running out of tables, and I hope they come back next year.  I quite enjoyed having them.  Tangent…

Adoptee Chris and his sister Eve are dragged by their parents from their big city life in California to Pico, Texas, a small town with more than a few secrets.  As an Asian, Chris is understandably wary of living in a town where the high school is named after a civil war general and the mascot is “The Rebel Chickens.”  He quickly adapts to his new life and things wouldn’t be so bad… if only his house wasn’t haunted.

The book is a good, quick read with a lot of really excellent characterization.  I really appreciated that each of the main characters seemed to have their own speaking style, and the dialog was quite witty.  It’s definitely a young adult novel, with all of the high school dating drama that generally comes with that genre, but the structure of the story is quite sophisticated.  The haunting wasn’t so much a horror as it was just a bit spooky.  I think this is in part because the two main characters take the whole thing in stride, as though they hear ghostly crying and footsteps all the time.  I sometimes felt like Chris was more concerned with his video games than with the supernatural entity stomping across his ceiling.  Overall though, quite a good story.

The one major beef I have with this book is the entire plot around the character Rose.  Her resolution makes the ending feel tacked on and rushed.  And once I realized where Kampman was going with the character, I very nearly gave up on the book.  It was only his excellent writing that kept me going, in the hopes that he would manage to surprise me.  I was sadly disappointed.  I feel like the entire subplot involving Rose could have been cut out and the whole book would have been much improved.  The solution to the mystery of the haunting could have been solved in some other, much more satisfying way.  And while she did add to the love triangle element of the story, I feel that she distracted from the haunting much too often.

I feel like Mr. Kampman has a lot of potential, and I’m optimistic about his Chance Lee series, which I plan to pick up for my e-reader.

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