Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews



Courtney Alameda
For ages 14 and up
Feiwel and Friends, 2015   ISBN: 978-1250044679

For centuries Micheline Helsing’s family members have worked to protect innocent people from ghosts, poltergeists, demons and other creatures of the dark. They have done this work with the help of other reaper families including the Stokers, the Sewards, and the Harkers, thus creating a powerful cabal which is now led by Micheline’s father, Leonard Helsing.

Micheline is the sole heir to her father’s empire. Eighteen months ago her beloved mother became infected with a deadly illness that killed her and then reanimated her in the form of an undead monster and a killing machine. Micheline did her best to protect her little brothers from her mother, but she failed. Now she and her father live on Angel Island in the new Helsing Corps compound. They rarely speak, and Micheline knows that her father blames her for not protecting her brothers from their mother. Micheline has been trained to be a reaper, she knows the rules, the drill. In her capacity as a tetrachromat, she has exorcised many ghosts, but she was not able to defeat the one that attacked her family. Tetrachromats can see the undead and Micheline has developed a clever way of getting rid of them. Typically the undead are captured using an antimirror, but Micheline uses a camera, trapping the ghosts on the film so that they can no longer harm anyone.

One night Micheline’s crew gets a call saying that a ghost is wreaking havoc at St. Mary’s Hospital. Two exorcist priests have already been killed and Micheline decides that they cannot wait for backup to arrive. She will go in with her team members, Oliver, Ryder, and Jude, to back her up. Generally ghosts are not killers, but this one is extremely aggressive. It seems to know Micheline’s name, which is bizarre, and it touches her with a strange black smoke. Though Micheline tries to capture the entity on her camera, her efforts fail and it gets away.

Micheline and the boys are in hot water for failing to follow procedure and for also failing to neutralize the entity. Then their situation gets a lot worse when it is discovered that the ghost infected them with a curse. If they do not find and neutralize the ghost within seven days they will die. Micheline’s father, who is furious with her for not following procedure and for putting her precious life at risk, takes her home, hits her, and locks her up. Hurt and furious, Micheline decides to leave home and take on the ghost herself. She contacts the boys, breaks out of her home, and the four of them leave Angel Island and head for the city of San Francisco.

Trying to find clues to help them better understand the entity, the young reapers go back to St. Mary’s where they discover that someone, or something, used an antimirror in one of the hospital bathrooms to allow the entity to enter the world of the living. There is also a message on the wall that clearly indicates that whatever brought the entity through the mirror is out for revenge.

Needing a place to lie low during the daylight hours, Michelin and the boys go to Michelin’s old house, the one she left after her mother and brothers died there. It is painful to be back in her old home, but Michelin pushes through, using her old darkroom to develop film and to plan what they should do next. In the basement she encounters another ghost called Luca. She knows better than to trust a ghost, but when he offers to help her find the entity, she, with reservations, follows up the clues he gives her. It turns out that the ghost is right. He does lead her to where the entity is hiding, but the reapers also walk into a trap that almost brings their hunt to a very abrupt end.

In this often chilling, even painful story, readers are taken into a world where the undead have an irritating habit of entering our world, and since many of them are dangerous, they have to be removed. It is fascinating to learn about Michelin’s family, to watch her struggle with her loss and grief, and to see her figure out which of her father’s many “rules” she should honor, and which of them she should break. Saving the living from the undead is a rule she will always live by, but what about her father’s insistence that she must marry someone of his choosing? What about the one that says one should never interact with a ghost?

The author of this book beautifully combines pure adventure with a touch of romance to give readers a story that is captivating from the first page to the last.