#1: Haint Misbehavin

Main Characters: 

Heather Tildy –  A 14 yr old girl about to start high school. She is the middle sibling in a trio of girls. She and her family live near Atlanta.  And, she can see ghosts. Only in this book they are called haunts (the character says its a southern thing). She is also hypersensitive and is allergic to tons of things so everyone thinks she is a freak, including her older sister (who coined Heather’s nickname:  Princess and the Pea).

Audrey – The oldest sister.  She’s going to be a junior and she is “Miss Popular”.  She works at the pool snack bar where drew is a lifeguard.  And her friends are snobs. She is absolutely awful to heather.

Claire – The youngest sister. She is nice to Heather but she is a little scared that she might be treated as a freak when she starts middle school in the fall because of Heather.

Drew –  The lifeguard that Heather likes. He’s older and doesn’t even know who Hather is at the start of the book.  He sort of becomes a friend because he starts to think Heather is funny.

Aunt Geneva –  Dad’s sister. She can see ghosts too only no one believes her; they just thinks she’s and eccentric artist.

Tina –  One of heather’s few friends.

Karen and Vanessa – Some of Audrey’s awful friends.

Roquefort – The family dog.

Xavier –  A boy who is being called the supergeek by Audrey and her crew. But he likes Heather. His brother died of an allergic reaction so he’s more concerned about Heather then others and he doesn’t think she’s weird for being allergic to stuff. He helps Heather a bunch of times while she is trying to find out about Amy (as well as doing her punishment which amounts to writing papers and doing research)because he works in the library.

Amy –  The haint. She’s 10 and appears to have died in the early 1900s. She has a warped sense of things and she is gives Heather a very hard time.  She makes Heather’s life even more awful the it was to begin with.   She won’t tell Heather the rules that Heather wants to know and she just wants to “have fun” but her sense of fun is definitely warped.

Main Premise – Heather realizes that she is like her Aunt Geneva and she can see ghosts. She’s not exactly happy about it. And when Amy comes along and wants to have fun. But her definition of fun is warped. And when she doesn’t get her own way she gets Heather into all sorts of trouble. She causes scenes that embarras Heather or cause destruction. Heather thinks that she needs to help Amy move on but Amy won’t tell her anything really. And there are some rules about dealing with the ghosts. After causing considerable trouble, Heather is able to help Amy move on.

Locations:  Somewhere near Atlanta Georgia.

Other Important Things to Remember for Later:  Apparently something happens that makes Heather able to see Amy again. She could see Amy when she was younger, she just thought Amy was her imaginary friend. Heather likes Drew and Drew thinks Heather is funny but he doesn’t like her the same way Heather likes him. Heather owes Xavier a few dates for the help he gave her at the library.  Karen made Audrey choose between Heather and Karen (and friends).   Aunt Geneva could sense Amy even though Amy didn’t show herself to Aunt G. Tere are a few rules with the ghosts.  They include: some ghosts only show themselves to certain people; ghosts can touch and move things; a ghost can possess a person; once a “handler” (as stated in Heather’s rules at the end of the book) acknowledges a ghost that ghost can enter the handler and move around (and cause trouble); if the ghost does something nice for the handler and the handler giver permission the ghost can leave the hating area; if the ghost does two nice things the ghost can leave without permission; and if the ghost does three nice things and the handler has solved the ghosts issue the ghost can move on if it wants to.  A thing missing from this is why the ghost can enter another person without being acknowledged the way Amy entered Amy at the movies.


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.


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