Sparrow Delaney is very excited about starting high school at a new school, even though it means a 45-minute bus ride each way. She is thrilled to be in a place where no one knows her, and no one knows she's from the "weird" town of Lily Dale (otherwise known as Spookyville). Because, as Sparrow says, "When you have a deep, dark secret to hide, a new beginning is a very good thing."
What Sparrow is so desperate to hide - not only from her new friends but from her family - is that she can see ghosts. Her family would be thrilled by this news, because they are spiritualists, mediums who help people by communicating with their loved ones who have died. Sparrow is the seventh daughter of a seventh daughter, so her family has Big Expectations as far as she is concerned. But from the time she was very small and talked with her first ghost, Sparrow has hidden her talent. She doesn't want to end up in a shabby old house with overdue bills in the cookie jar. She wants a real career, nothing to do with ghosts and spirits. No matter that she has had three spirit guides since she was five years old.
Her problems begin at her new school, when a cute guy in one of her classes turns out to be a ghost. He wants her help, and no amount of ignoring him will make him go away. He seems to be connected with an all-too-real boy named Jack, who is also pretty cute, but thanks to the ghost, she gets off on the wrong foot with him and totally embarrasses herself. When they're assigned to do a history project together, and he wants to do it on Sparrow's town of Lily Dale, Sparrow's problems are just beginning...
This is a fun coming-of-age story with a light supernatural twist. While it was easy to see where the story was going, and it was clear that Sparrow is going to learn an Important Lesson on Being Herself, it happened in such an entertaining way that I was quite happy to go along with the ride. I loved Sparrow's six older sisters, each also named for birds, and her grandmother in particular, a funny character who clearly has no problem whatsoever being herself:
For the past two years Grandma Bee has been creating a new martial art designed for older people. Her belief, based on a completely immodest assessment of her own talent, was that the elderly could be organized into our country's most effective crime-fighting force. "It's so unexpected, you see," she always says. "Who would ever suspect that a man wearing a 'World's Best Grandpa' T-shirt could kill with his bare hands?"The characters are fun and interesting, and Sparrow's relationships with her sisters, her new best friend, and with Jack, are portrayed in a believable, realistic way. The supernatural elements add a touch of whimsy to a story that, underneath the lightheartedness, is about death and the difficulty of letting go. I have not read anywhere that there is a sequel in the works to this delightful book (which is set in the actual spiritualist town of Lily Dale in New York), but I would be very happy to read more about the irrepressible Sparrow and her otherworldly adventures.
Here is an interview with author Suzanne Harper at Slayground.
The Secret Life of Sparrow Delaney by Suzanne Harper (Greenwillow Books, 2007)
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The Indextrious Reader: "Enjoyable characters, including Sparrow herself and her irascible Grandma Bee, make this book sparkle (and not in an Edward-the-Undead way)."
The Magic of Ink: "a light, enjoyable read that had enough humorous observations, over-the-top characters, and depth to keep the fluff at bay."