Tuesday 22 July 2014

Review: Haunt: Dead Scared by Curtis Jobling

When Will finds himself in hospital, but unable to make anyone see or hear him, he realises that he never made it home from his first kiss with the school hottie. Knocked off his bike in a road traffic accident, Will is now officially dead - and a ghost. But somehow his best mate, Dougie, can still see him, and, what is more, increasingly Will seems bound to Dougie, going only where Dougie goes. Once they've exhausted all the comic possibilities of being invisible, they set about unravelling the mystery of Will's predicament. Is it something to do with that kiss, or the driver of the car that killed him and didn't stop? Maybe they will find an answer by investigating the rumour that there is an unhappy spirit haunting the ruins in the school grounds, and if so, why? What they discover is a long-buried mystery, which stretches its fingers right into the present...

Long time readers of The Book Zone will already know that I am a huge fan of Curtis Jobling's Wereworld books. That series was epic fantasy for teens at its very best, and ever since it finished I have been waiting with baited breath to see what Curtis produced next. Given that this is the guy who brought us both Bob the Builder and RAA RAA the Noisy Lion I was not at all surprised when I discovered that his new book, Haunt: Dead Scared, was totally different: a creepy comedy story aimed at a slightly younger audience than Wereworld.

Although Haunt treads very similar ground to Tamsyn Murray's brilliant My So-Called Afterlife, and there are elements of the plot's central mystery that are not a million miles away from that of James Dawson's Say Her Name, the quality of Curtis Jobling's writing makes this an original and thoroughly enjoyable read for young teens. The real strengths of the book are the humour, and the tight relationship between Will (who dies in the first chapter but comes back as a ghost) and his best mate Dougie (the only person who can see Will's ghost). These are two somewhat geeky boys having to come to terms with a tragic accident, and the bizarre aftermath that sees Will stranded as a spook. Together they have to work out why on earth Will didn't move on, and in the process of their investigations they come across another stranded spirit, and take it upon themselves to help her too.

I've not read any interviews Curtis Jobling may have given about this new series but I would not be surprised if he has cited Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) as one of his inspirations when it came to writing the book. I loved the original series (watched as repeats - I'm honestly not old enough to have seen it when first broadcast) and even enjoyed the Vic and Bob reboot. The humour in Haunt, as the two boys try to get to grips with their rather unique situation, is certainly reminiscent of that TV show, with a heavy dose of Scooby Doo style shenanigans thrown in for good measure.

If you're looking for a creepy and funny book that is also a fairly quick read this summer then look no further than Haunt: Dead Scared. My thanks go to the fab people at Simon & Schuster for sending me a copy.


  1. I completely agree with this review - it reminded me of Randall & Hopkirk (deceased) too, that mix of humour and mystery. Brilliant review :)

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