Reading/Interest Level: Intermediate
Author: Lauren DeStefano
Publisher: Bloomsbury Children's Books
The Peculiar Night of the Blue Heart by Lauren DeStefano is a middle-grade mystery novel, but is anything but predictable. Marybeth and Lionel are two orphans living in Mrs. Mannerd's home with several other children. The two couldn't be more different; however, their differences bring them together as they are both taunted by the older children. Marybeth is quiet, reserved, respectful, and calm and Lionel prefers to be anything other than a boy: a lion, a rabbit, or a bird. Lionel tells Marybeth at the beginning of the story that he has seen a blue fox. Late one night, Marybeth falls into the river while trying to capture the fox. The fox enters her body to save her from drowning and remains there, slowly taking over. As the story evolves, the children discover that the blue fox is a spirit of a girl who was murdered and they rush to solve the mystery before the spirit overtakes Marybeth completely.
This novel was a genuine surprise. While readers may be expecting a sweet story with two children, this novel is actually a mystery that deals with a violent murder and the early notions of insanity. The murder of the spirit girl is the driving force behind the sequential events in the novel. Through her novel, Lauren DeStefano illustrates that while humans can be completely terrible, such as the boys who murdered the girl for no reason, or when the nurses tie down mental patients, humanity is a unique existence that should not be shunned, like when Lionel learns the sweetness of human friendship. Parents and teachers should be aware that violence and brutality is implied in the novel. An adult can imagine how graphic it is; however, a middle-grade reader might not realize the severity of the act.
*Contains mild violence.