Can horror work as a genre for middle-grade readers? The answer is yes, if it is written the way Claire Legrand has written The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls. Legrand has created a compelling story with all the things you expect in a middle-grade story and a few things you don’t. Those are the ones that are bound to scare the pants off of younger readers and even raise a chill in their parents. But have no fear. It’s all in good fun. There will be no long lasting damage here.
Let’s make a food analogy. Salsa works well. The horror in this story is like the burn you get when you eat salsa. It burns for a while but soon wears off. How much will this story burn? Where spicy equates with seriously scary, medium equates with somewhat scary and mild equates with not scary at all, the horror in this story rates a medium with an occasional jalapeno pepper. Just beware of those peppers!
Legrand has created a quirky new heroine to battle evil and added just the right amount of horror to keep readers of all ages turning the pages. So what’s the story? Victoria is perfect. She’s smart, beautiful and driven. And for some reason she has taken on a project of sorts, to befriend a boy named Lawrence who is a disaster. He’s messy and he doesn’t do well at school. In fact, the only thing he cares about is playing the piano. But then one day Lawrence disappears and Victoria’s perfect life begins to unravel. She gets her first B in school, notices how all the adults around her are indifferent and there are always cockroaches about. It gets worse. She begins to suspect Lawrence isn’t away visiting an Aunt like his parents say, but is in the Cavendish Home For Boys and Girls. She’s right and the Home is a terrible place for him to be. It’s a mysterious facility into which many children go but never come out. When she sets out to free him, she ends up captive herself.
I will not put any spoilers here. What follows for Victoria is intense, and at times very scary because the villains are unforgettable. But no worries, Victoria will put everything right in the end.
This is a wonderful read. Enjoy!