Middle Grade

 Midnight Reynolds and the Spectral Transformer (by my alter ego, Catherine Holt)

When twelve year-old misfit Midnight Reynolds takes a job helping out eccentric Miss Appleby in the mansion down the street, she never imagined her work would involve battling ghosts. But as it turns out, Midnight and her new employer have quite a bit in common—they were both born on Halloween and have the power to see spirits of the dead. But when Midnight learns more about the history of her town, she starts to wonder if she’s fighting on the right side.


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The Reviews

“Midnight Reynolds has always felt like an outsider: from her unusual name and her family’s poverty to her obsessive reliance on spreadsheets to keep her life organized. When Midnight moves to a new town and becomes friends with the two most popular girls in school, she finally feels welcome. The only problem: the 12-year-old white girl’s privileged new friends like to shop, and they’ll likely dump Midnight if they find out she’s broke. Midnight gets a job assisting sweet Miss Appleby. But Miss Appleby doesn’t need help with household chores; the middle-aged white woman wants Midnight to help her hunt ghosts. Because she was born at midnight on Oct. 31, Midnight has a supernatural gift: she can see ghosts—spectral energy. When someone dies, their spectral energy passes to the Afterglow, but an insidious phenomenon called a black stream is transferring the energy to inanimate objects. Armed with a device called a spectral transformer, Midnight retrieves the trapped energy so it can be safely disposed of. The job isn’t as straightforward as it seems, and Midnight soon faces a problem even the most sophisticated spreadsheet can’t fix. Hunting and trapping spectral energy fills the highly likable Midnight with a sense of pride and bravado she’s never felt before, easing her struggles to fit in at school and to cope with her mother’s impending remarriage. Old-fashioned spooky fun.” Kirkus 

“New to West Virginia, 12-year-old Midnight is grateful to have a couple of popular friends, and she knows enough to keep her distance from Tabitha, a classmate described as “antisocial.” Since Midnight’s birthday, she’s occasionally noticed flickering lights and a buzzing noise that no one seems to perceive, no one except Miss Appleby, a middle-aged neighbor. Explaining that people born at midnight on Halloween (as they both were) can sense “spectral energy,” she hires Midnight as her assistant ghost-hunter. The money is good, but something is amiss, and the danger is mounting. When Tabitha offers to help, Midnight gratefully accepts. This chapter book may not have a strong sense of place, but it offers a fast-paced ride with a few surprises. Just when readers are lulled into thinking that they understand what’s happening, they may be blindsided by a plot twist or two that they just didn’t see coming. The first book of a planned series by Holt, who also writes YA fiction under the name Amanda Ashby.” Booklist

“Midnight Reynolds has enough on her plate. Burdened with an unusual name and a Halloween birthday, the 12-year-old is also juggling a new home and school, high-maintenance friends, and her mother’s impending marriage to Phil, the oh-so-embarrassing Viking reenactor. Midnight has no time to deal with the undead. But keeping up with her popular friends is expensive, so she is delighted when her neighbor, old Mrs. Appleby, offers her a job—until she discovers Mrs. Appleby expects her to hunt ghosts. She informs the dismayed girl that individuals born at midnight on Halloween possess the unique ability to see “spectral energy,” or ghosts. Mrs. Appleby wants Midnight to keep their town clear of ghosts while she is incapacitated with a broken ankle. Initially reluctant, Midnight eventually agrees, learning to use the spectral transformer to capture the evil spirits. The demands of her new responsibility soon affect her social life, and she sees her chance at popularity slipping away. Luckily, classmate Tabitha (who loves librarians, research, and archives) turns out to be a loyal friend and helps Midnight uncover the spooky truth. Midnight is a likable character, filled with anxiety, determination, and initiative. Her internal struggle between wanting to be popular and remaining true to herself is well developed and adds depth to the gently suspenseful ghost-busting plot. Midnight eventually realizes that she has people in her life she can truly count on, and the ending promises future adventures. VERDICT A great choice for young readers who clamor for slightly scary books.” School Library Journal

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