The Whispering Skull - YA Review by Rayna Grace C

Reader: Rayna Grace C.
Age: 15
Title: Lockwood & Co., Book 2 The Whispering Skull
Author: Jonathan Stroud
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Pub Date: 09/16/14
Galley: Yes
Top 25: Yes
Convince us to read the book: “WELL [JONATHAN STROUD] SURE KNOWS HOW TO MAKE AN IRRITATINGLY PERFECT CLIFFHANGER, NOW DOESN’T HE? UGH. I AM SO DISGUSTED RIGHT NOW.”      - Me, said to an empty room at 3:00 AM after finishing The Whispering Skull

     I am not sure if I have been living under a rock or accidentally joined some sort of cult that banned British authors, but I had never heard of Jonathan Stroud until about a month ago. After reading the first two installments of the Lockwood & Co. series, I am definitely adding all his works onto my "To Read" list.
     Now, my only disclaimer for potential readers is this: If you like ghost stories that make you so afraid that you keep the lights on at night for three weeks straight, these are not really the books for that. I would compare this series more to a mystery/crime novel, where ghosts just so happen to be both the victims and perpetrators of crimes, rather than the nail-biting campfire tale you might expect.
     I admire this series because it is not just about this crime-solving trio and their slowly changing relationships with one another, or the impossible situations awaiting for these unsuspecting heroes once they walk into each haunted house, or even about the strangeness of each ghost and the story surrounding their death; this series combines all of those elements and builds a multi-faceted story with them. I cannot stress enough how important it is for any sort of book, YA or otherwise, to combine and emphasize all literary elements equally.
     Also, I really dig the fact that Lucy is more protective of George in this book than in the first, describing him more like an actual human being and less like a pile of spoiled sausage. Even though every time Lucy made a rude comment about her comrade in The Screaming Staircase I laughed really hard, I always silently pitied George because I relate to his awkwardness, mismatched clothes, unfortunate face and all. Furthermore, this character development proves that even though Lucy is quick to judge and slow to trust, once she decides to befriend an individual she is completely loyal to them. In other words, this tells the reader that a) George is not, in fact, a pile of spoiled sausage and b) Lucy is a kind person, despite the aggressive way she describes herself.
     I really am not sure where I should end this since I have no cons to list in this review, so I will just say I will be happily waiting for the third book in this series (hopefully I will see it in the collection room..?) and in the meantime I will be trying to find other novels like it.
Memorable or Forgettable: This book was memorable for me personally because it was the first book in a series I have found in the collection room that I have wholeheartedly enjoyed. This book had very detailed descriptions and realistic characters, yet was surprisingly laid-back in the delivery of the plot development (I mean this in the most endearing, lovable way possible).  This meant the reader could feel engaged and intrigued while reading the book, but if they were forced to set the book down for dinner it would throw them into a white-hot rage (do not think this is a ridiculous occurrence in my household, I have gotten myself into more than one argument because I was interrupted while reading). The Whispering Skull was one of the only books I have liked where I did not feel as if I was being held hostage by suspense, which was one of the most uniquely relaxing book experiences ever.  Overall, this series is just really solid from every angle and I respect that. Keep doing what you’re doing, guys.
Cover: I like the cover for this book generally speaking, considering it was the main reason I checked the book out in the first place (skulls and green smoke are definitely promising when looking for a creepy fantasy/mystery novel.) However, I want the cover of this book to be created by the same artist (or someone with a similar style, if they are too busy or something) as the first novel because as strange as it sounds, three days before I checked out The Whispering Skull from the collection room in the Metropolitan State Library, I had ordered The Screaming Staircase from my local library after hearing about it on Tumblr (I had to repeat the title and author in my head as I was walking to the library since I could not find a pen, so I had the facts ingrained in my mind) and yet when I checked out The Whispering Skull, I had no idea that it was the sequel to the book I had just ordered. Now, I like to think that I am not a complete blubbering idiot when it comes to making everyday connections like this, but the cover threw me off so much I did not even consider the brother novels to be related. If anything, they looked like second cousins. This needs to be fixed, soon, because this seemingly small change can greatly impact this book’s return audience and overall earnings.
     Also, artist-drawn covers will always scream quality to me as a reader, since almost every successful YA Fantasy novel I have personally come to adore (ex. The Fablehaven series, Percy Jackson/Heroes of Olympus series, 13 Treasures Trilogy,, etc;) has an amazingly intricate artist-drawn cover.
     So, in short, all publishers need to give all their most promising YA Fantasy books artist-drawn covers because that decision shows that someone actually took the time to read a scene in the book, care enough about it to scrape up the motivation to create their own detailed and accurate rendition of said scene, and put their heart and soul into something that other people will see.
     I am sorry this section became so lengthy, I just cannot advocate enough for artist-drawn book covers and this novel gave me the proper opportunity to so.
Age Range: Under 12 through 17
Quality: 5Q Hard to imagine a better book
Popularity: 4P Broad general teen appeal
Additional CommentsAlso, just want to throw this out there: kudos to making a female protagonist that is not gorgeous. Thank you for not making Lucy’s beauty (or lack thereof) necessary for her to be accepted by her peers or respected by her superiors. Thanks for creating a character that does not fret about her physical features day in and day out, even if society thinks she should. This is important. Thanks.
Annotation: Anthony, George, and Lucy are back in the daily grind, fighting ghosts/solving crimes for the city of London. However, life for Lockwood & Co. becomes a little less ho-hum when the ominous skull in a jar at the crew's home speaks after months of silence, and better yet, he seems to have a personal connection to the group's newest case.

tags:  ghost story / mystery / action / Lockwood & Co. series / ya lit

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