Very different in tone but equally compelling, these two ghost stories will haunt readers long after the last page.
In Thirteen Doorways, Wolves Behind Them All, Printz Medal-winner Laura Ruby weaves a heart-wrenching story about loss and familial bonds as two girls, an orphan and a ghost, struggle to make their way during the early 1940s.
Pearl, who narrates, died in 1918 and haunts the Chicago orphanage where Frankie is abandoned by her father, a poor shoemaker. Pearl watches as Frankie endures both harsh treatment by the nuns and the heartbreak of her father’s remarriage and subsequent move to Colorado without her. Frankie must also weather the loss of her first love, who enlists in the Army at the height of war.
Over time, Pearl meets other spirits and begins to unburden herself of the secrets that keep her locked in the mortal realm. She discovers that her afterlife doesn’t have to be spent wandering Chicago’s streets, trapped in an endless loop.
Thirteen Doorways, Wolves Behind Them All calls to mind A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, another story that explores the struggles, heartache and joy of those who grew up without privilege in the early 20th century. Pearl is a tragic heroine, a product of the social expectations placed on a beautiful young woman in the late 1910s, and Frankie comes of age amid the uncertainty and instability of World War II—yet both refuse to succumb to hopelessness. A beautiful and lyrical read that pushes against the boundaries of what we often think a young adult novel can contain, Thirteen Doorways, Wolves Behind Them All is sure to garner Ruby even more acclaim.
The ghosts in Rules for Vanishing are tragic entities with malevolent intentions. A year ago, Sara Donoghue’s sister Becca traipsed into the Massachusetts woods, never to be seen again. Only Sara knows where she went—in search of a ghostly road that emerges on the anniversary of the disappearance of Lucy Gallow, who vanished in 1953 and whose ghost now calls out to travelers for rescue. Now Sara must try to find Becca. To do so, she enlists the help of some old friends and ensures that everyone knows the rules of the road: Everyone must search in pairs. Everyone must bring a lock to open a gate. And everyone must stay on the road. But breaking the rules, even unintentionally, is easier than it seems, and the consequences for doing so are gruesome. To reveal anything more than that would spoil the reading experience.
Kate Alice Marshall interweaves video footage transcripts, interviews, emails and text messages, documentary-style, into Sara’s first-person narration. The effect not only heightens suspense but stretches the confines of the story and causes readers to question Sara’s version of events. What is real, and what has been distorted? Marshall doesn’t shy away from violence or gore, and readers will feel like they are watching a horror film unfold on the page. Shudder-inducing and unusual, The Rules for Vanishing checks all the boxes for a pulse-thumping read.
Heartwarming or hair-raising, Thirteen Doorways, Wolves Behind Them All and Rules for Vanishing will keep readers up all night.