PJV Quickie: THE SCREAMING STAIRCASE is the first book of what could be this generation’s GOOSEBUMPS, only with much better vocabulary and world-building. It has the perfect dosage of horror to scare MG readers, while not diving into topics that would make parents squirm like maggots.
Review: If reading is an addiction, then Jonathan Shroud might have created the perfect drug with THE SCREAMING STAIRCASE. The narrative is so dazzling that you’re compelled to press forward. It’s a good thing considering that the reader is thrust into the thick of things with no explanation. There’s a girl, her name is Lucy, and she is going to exterminate a ghost. Got it?
The characters are flawed, imperfect. Lucy often acts rashly, which leaves grave consequences later. Lockwood is ambitious and has difficulty realizing the reality of what he has. George overanalyzes situations and suffers from chronic pessimism. They’re easily relatable and perfectly entertaining when left to their own devices.
In essence, THE SCREAMING STAIRCASE is a tween version of GHOSTBUSTERS set in Victorian England. Lockwood and Company, the detective agency that Lucy belongs to, has a habit of solving cases by any means necessary. This reputation causes their caseload to dwindle. It’s only through chance that opportunity arises to solve all their problems – of course, the risk is death.
What glimpses we get of the world are grim. Ghosts are rampant and people are afraid to leave their homes. Because children can see the ghosts, they are tasked with extinguishing them. But, many children don’t survive to grow up. It’s a scary book for a MG reader, but the gore and death are mostly implied, leaving imagination to fill in the details. There are several vocabulary words that might puzzle a tween; the majority of them can be figured out through context. Overall, a great story for younger readers.