Haint She Sweet (Ghost Handlers #4) by Maureen Hardegree
Reading Level: Young Adult
Release Date: July 31, 2013
Publisher: Bell Bridge Books
Pages: 206 pages
Reviewed By: Kate McMurry
Heather Tildy has a much more stressful than normal transition from middle school to high school as she begins her freshman year, because she is a ghost handler who is in between assignments and wide open to be latched onto by an opportunistic ghost. Up until the moment the ghost Heather is currently wrangling fulfills what it is hanging around for and moves on, no other ghost can make demands on Heather. But once that ghost is gone, Heather is vulnerable to the next ghost who manages to get its hooks into her.
When ghosts at her school realize that Heather can see and hear them, they loudly plead with her to help them, and Heather knows from hard experience that she has very limited time to size up her numerous petitioners and choose the least-worst from among them. Even though she's, by now, handled multiple ghosts, she still hasn't figured out how to improve the quality of the ghosts accosting her, and she ends up stuck with a middle-aged battle-axe who is the worst ghost poor Heather has had to deal with so far.
The ghost is a control-freak lunch lady who steamrolls the hapless Heather into acting as her living instrument to spread a rigorous regimen of healthy eating. Since Heather lives in Pecan Hills, a backwater area in Georgia where a diet loaded down with fried and processed junk is epidemic among the local population, this is an enormous feat to attempt in her own family, let alone in her school and beyond.
This book is fourth in a series, and I had not read any of the other books before this one. I was easily able to follow the plot, though, because the author does a great job filling in important backstory, including just enough crucial information to avoid confusion, but not so much as to slow down the forward action of the current book.
Heather is a very sympathetic heroine. Though she is constantly overwhelmed by her ghost-handler destiny, she never gives up or gives in, and her many misadventures with ghosts provide lots of laughs.
The Southern setting created by this Georgian author adds uniqueness to the story and is very well done. As someone who was born and raised in the southern part of Missouri and spent time as an adult living in Georgia, I find the Southern culture presented in the story delightfully authentic.
Each book in this series provides Heather with a new love interest and, as is common with chick lit compared to romance novels, the focus is on girl power and dating disasters rather than achieving a committed, romantic relationship.
This book is G-rated, and girls as young as ten will enjoy it. But Heather's adventures are so clever and entertaining, that girls and women of all ages, especially fans of the paranormal and comedy, will love both this particular book and the entire series.
Disclosure: I received a review copy of this book from NetGalley.
I rate this book as follows:
Fantasy World-Building: 5
Chick-Lit Plot: 5