Reviews /

The House in the Woods

Authored by Yvette Fielding
Published by Andersen Press

Tagged , ,

After sneaking off to Epping Forest to find an abandoned house, Eve, Tom, and Clovis spend the evening using a ouija board to contact spirits. What they experienced that night wasn’t quite what they expected. Nor did they expect the spirit to follow them home. But it did. The three friends, and Eve’s uncle, embark on an adventure to, hopefully, lay the presence to rest.

I want to start by saying I love ghost stories. Especially local – a book actually fell from a shelf as I wrote that – tales of creepy sightings. There’s a tale of a monk that walks across my road to get to the site of an old brewery. So I enjoyed Yvette Fielding’s story of an unrestful spirit, ghost hunters, and Nazis. What’s not to like about that? I found it genuinely creepy and a lot of fun.

But, just as much as I enjoy ghost stories, I know that they’re just that. Stories. I know the book fell from the shelf because the window next to it was slightly open. Sadly, there were many parts of this book that I felt took itself too seriously and parts where claims were presented as facts. For instance, the words ‘science’, ‘scientist’, and ‘evidence’ hold a certain amount of authority, and Fielding uses them freely to authenticate her characters’ ideas. To give a couple of examples:

“There’s enough evidence out there to suggest a ouija board does act as some portal to talk to dead people.” (p.6)

Speaking about psychokinetic manifestation.

“Scientists still don’t understand it, but they believe the activity happens subconsciously when someone is under pressure.” (p.78)

“Scientists believe that the stones can record sound and vision in and around a building and then when the conditions are right the stones act as a projector.” (p.164)

As I was reading I felt every claim of this sort needed to be referenced. It left me wondering how many readers will go away thinking these things are true. In a world of misinformation, we need to be teaching children how to spot these statements, and how to analyse them with consideration.

Clovis is the logical sceptic of the group. However, even he is still a firm believer. One example is when the group is discussing psychics. Clovis says,

“I’m not doubting their abilities, it’s just there are a high percentage of frauds out there.” (p.85)

If you’re going to write a logical character, they’ve got to be just that. Giving them lines like this just confuses readers into thinking these claims are true. But even when Clovis is being logical and rational he’s immediately put down by the others:

“He was about to start one of his scientific monologues.” (p.30)

“Clovis was about to begin a speech… but the others… were not in the mood for one of his long-winded scientific ramblings.” (p.20)

“Clovis’s scientific brain really got on her nerves.” (p.34)

I don’t want to be a Moaning Myrtle, because it was, despite these things, a good story. Tom’s strained relationship with his father was moving and there were plenty of scares. I just wish these would have been at the forefront and explored further. Instead, we have a book dangerously close to presenting pseudoscience as fact.

We keep coming back to the theme of responsibility in children’s books. Not just from the author, but from the publisher too, and I do feel this falls short. A simple disclaimer could have solved this. My disclaimer is that I have an uncorrected proof, so apologies if any of these issues don’t appear in the finished edition.

There are plenty of people (year 6 up) who will enjoy The House in the Woods, and others who won’t. Love the scares, intrigue, and adventure, but let’s remember which sources of information are reliable and that science is our friend.