Haint Misbehavin by Maureen Hardegree is, like the title would suggest, filled with all sorts of adventures of misbehavior. Although I had to ask myself what the heck is a haint… luckily it was explained very early on.
Heather is just just about to start high school. She’s just “become a woman” and the opening scene where she is about to ask her sister for help using a tampon should set the audience for this book pretty solidly in the middle school aged girl range. Turns out she can also see ghosts. But she doesn’t tell anyone this. And when her ghost Amy becomes active, Amy starts causing trouble with the guy Heather likes and the guy that likes Heather. Her sister already hates her and Amy doesn’t make things any better. In fact Amy’s antics make for a tough start to the summer for Hather and her sisters and her desire to be cool and liked.
I have mixed feelings about a number of things about this book. I hated some of the characters so much that it had to be decently written to evoke such strong emotions. But I hated the characters on such a a scale that I almost stopped reading. So that says to me that the author maybe has gone a little overboard with some of them. Audrey and Amy primarily are the two biggest culprits of triggering this intense hatred. But I didn’t even really like Heather all that much either. I understand sister rivalry but what was written here was absurd. And while Amy is supposed to be just a 10 year old she intentionally causes harm and is totally deluded in thinking that she’s helping Heather. It was hard to take. It got to the point where I was laughing and I don’t think it was intended to be funny. This had elements of the Judy Bloom coming of age for a girl book (and as a result I would not think that a boy would enjoy this at all) given the talk about getting her period for the first time) and the supernatural wasn’t much of a mystery so much as merely a way to get Heather introduced to a boy she likes.
The ghost story wasn’t really a ghost story and Amy’s infantile behavior (even for a 10 year old they seemed beneath her) and Heather’s just as infantile responses, the ghost story elements felt wasted. There was potential and to culminate in merely reasing a diary was not exactly exciting. The flip flopping of Heather’s emotions towards Amy was also a little tough to deal with. I do wonder what the point of this books was. Was it intended to be a YA Paranormal story or a young girls story about how to deal with puberty and it just so happens to also have a ghost? Because those two things are vastly different to me and I feel we got the later when I was expecting the former.
What could have been a great feature of this book – Aunt G – was all but ignored. Her connection to the ghosts had so much potential. But we really didn’t get much of anything from that. The best thing about this book seemed to be how quick a read it was. There wasn’t much setting detail so the reader was free to create the home and the pool and the movie theater and the library without much in the way of description. Normally I don’t want to be burdened by that but a little to make sure that the imagery my mind conjures is consistent with what the author intends is needed. Here, the lack of those details just meant the book was that much easier and faster to get through. The big mystery with Amy wasnt really a mystery so much as a few unknown facts that are unceremoniously and very anticlimactically revealed.
There is to be at least one follow up book (Hainted Love). Hopefully the author will have decidded which type of book she wants to write. Because otherwise, if you are looking for a YA paranormal series, I would suggest that there are better choices. I will also note that I think this is definitely steered more towards young girls and I am not sure boys will appreciate it. I was a teenage girl at one point and it was hard for me to read some of the whiney little girl stuff this book was overflowing with.