________________ CM . . . . Volume XIII Number 1 . . . . September 1, 2006


Never To Be Told.

Becky Citra.
Victoria, BC: Orca, 2006.
217 pp., pbk., $8.95.
ISBN 1-55143-567-5.

Grades 5-7 / Ages 10-12.

Review by Jen Waters.

***½ /4

Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy.


She had been away from Cold Creek for a long time. Something had brought her back. Maybe it was the death of the old dog; she wasn't sure. She stared at the girl standing beside the grave. The woman had called her Asia. She had seen her from a distance on her other visits to Cold Creek, playing by the water or walking in the meadow, her long black hair blowing every which way in the breeze, but never before had she been this close to her.

A cat sprang out of the long grass and landed lightly on Miranda's shoulder."There you are, Montgomery." She stroked his sleek gray back. His tail lashed from side to side. "You feel it too," she whispered. Her excitement grew, swelling inside of her. Too much death. Her words hung over the dog's grave. And Asia had heard. After forty years, Miranda had made contact with a living person.

There just aren't enough well-crafted ghost stories for young readers anymore. Sure, there are plenty of gory or disturbing psychological thrillers and generic books like the “Goosebumps” series, but I'm talking about those books that send delightful shivers down your spine as you read them without keeping you from wanting to go to bed ever again. A child of the 1980s, I loved spooky books such as Mary Downing Hahn's Wait til Helen Comes and Betty Ren Wright's The Dollhouse Murders. In the last 20 years, authors such as Ruth Park, Janet Lunn and Kit Pearson have written wonderful "time slip" books with eerie ghostly presences, but that's an altogether different genre. Lately, classic but well-written ghost stories have been few and far between – until now.

     Becky Citra's Never To Be Told is the charming story of a 12-year-old girl named Asia who lives with an elderly couple on a farm in Cold Creek, BC, after her mother abandoned her at a young age. Although Asia is not related to Ira and Maddy, she has grown to love them like grandparents and naturally feels threatened when their lives take a turn for the worse: Ira suffers a heart attack and must spend his final days in a big city hospital. Harry, Ira and Maddy's grown son, comes to help out with the intent to relocate the couple to his more civilized condo in Southern California, a plan in which he has not included Asia because he does not consider her to be a part of the family. After making a number of calls, Harry discovers that, while Asia's mother is dead and Asia’s father's identity is unknown, her grandmother is alive and well in West Vancouver and has offered to take Asia in.

     Meanwhile, Asia has encountered the ghost of Miranda Williams who lived in Cold Creek in the early 1900s, a story that is told in alternating chapters and through excerpts from Miranda's diary. Miranda had a young daughter named Daisy who died at the age of three, but Miranda took in a little girl named Beatrice whose drifter father wandered onto their farm. Beatrice's father left his little girl with Miranda and her husband, and Miranda, still feeling the loss of her daughter, appropriated Beatrice and changed her name to Daisy. Upon moving to West Vancouver, Asia meets an old woman named Mary Wintergreen who is eerily connected to the story of Miranda Williams. As Asia helps locate an old diary in Mary's cottage, she uncovers a series of secrets about her ghostly mystery and the lives of Miranda and her young daughter. In a welcome change to the convention of most ghost stories, both Maddy and Beth (Asia's grandmother) believe that Asia can see ghosts, and furthermore, Beth thinks this skill has passed down through the generations of their family. Beth is even writing a book titled Ghost Encounters: The Genetic Link.

     Coincidences abound in Never To Be Told, with young Beatrice and Asia both being abandoned by parents in Cold Creek (parents who may have returned were it not for their untimely deaths) and both moving to West Vancouver for a new life. But this does not detract from the story; in fact, most ghost stories rely on such coincidences and usually require at least some suspension of disbelief if one is to enjoy the story. Beth tells Asia that "a lot of ghosts are trapped on earth because of a violent death or tragedy. They're being punished, and they need someone or something to set them free before they can leave the world of the living."

     With her eerie but gentle ghost story, Citra's Never To Be Told will no doubt be well received by young girls who like to be spooked but not given nightmares.

Highly Recommended.

Jen Waters is the Teen Services Librarian at the Red Deer Public Library in Red Deer, AB.



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