Publisher: Infinity Publishing
Sent to me by the author.
As always: SPOILERS!!!!!
Summary: Meet mischievous Marcie, part of a family with large secrets. Trying to make sense of her mother's crazed actions, Marcie looks to her strange cousin Robbie and the adults around her for direction. After dead Uncle Charlie's funeral, they embark on a quest to find answers to questions that have puzzled their family since the Civil War. Sifting through lies, secrets and Irish folk tales, Marcie believes "The Screaming Stone" contains the magic to uncover the truth and lead them to the hidden treasure.
Ok, so I have come to the conclusion that this is definitely a middle-grade book. The writing seems, to me, to be like most middle-grade books and I don't think that most older YA readers would enjoy it; but the puzzling thing was the subject matter. The subject matter seemed to be a bit more adult. I know that it would have raised questions from my daughter at the middle-grade age. Some of the topics tackled are teen (we assume) pregnancy, mental illness, child abuse and accidental murder. That's a whole lot going on in one book!
For some reason it really bothered me that I couldn't figure out what time period this was supposed to be in. From the cover, I thought 60's or 70's - it seemed a bit retro. Then at one point the kids use a card catalogue in the library and they also watch "The Red Skeleton Hour" - that made me believe it was in the late 1960's. The language was older too, at times the conversation didn't flow so much as be 'chunky'. The slang and everyday phrases were different. I think that for middle-grade readers, they might be confused. Especially as the one character uses a tape recorder a lot - they might have to ask what that is!
It felt like there were too many stories all going at once, trying to be tied together by Irish folk lore. The folk lore was the best part of the book - beautiful stories! So we have:
The family might lose their farmland, including dead Uncle Charlie's farm because there's not enough money. So Marcie's mom goes to stay at her Aunt & Uncles empty house; while Marcie, her younger brother, cousin Robbie and the Grandparents stay at Uncle Charlie's house. I didn't really get why they had to stay there and who was taking care of Grandpa's business while he was gone. Also, Marcie's mom is married now with stepchildren - the husband and his children don't come out to stay - what's up with that?!
Then there's the weird tunnel under Uncle Charlie's barn and all the stuff in it. The kids accidentally find a key while desecrating a tombstone and then go scouting around until they find this door in the barn floor, which leads to a huge series of caverns. Someone is living down there, but they believe that the Irish spirits are watching over them and go ahead.
Marcie's mom acts crazy and is abusive, hitting the children. Later there's a story about a teen (we assume) pregnancy and mental illness to go with this. Uncle Finn is the black sheep of the family - his sister thinks he killed her boyfriend and won't 'fess up. He stays away from the family. It turns out that the mom is schizophrenic and she and her parents refused treatment for years. She got worse when her boyfriend died and then she had the baby and gave it up. I knew after a couple of chapters that the baby was Robbie - she was very calm and different with him, it was really obvious. I spent most of the book trying to decide what Robbie's issue was...I want to say Aspburger's, but I'm not completely sure and it never says. Uncle Finn never left home, he lives in the series of tunnels under Uncle Charlie's farm.
For me, the book didn't flow and it was more of a chore to read it than an enjoyment. I was befuddled by the time period, the language, and all the stories being crammed into one book. But that's just my opinion.