I almost put this book back when I read the phrase “cast of quirky characters” in the jacketflap. I’m generally not a fan of books set in small towns where everyone is “quirky.” But in the interest of keeping alive my streak of one-word-title book reviewing, I gave Peeled, by Joan Bauer, a chance.
While the town newspaper seems obsessed with the idea of ghosts at the old Ludlow house, Hildy Biddle is determined to discover the truth. As the town gets caught up in the oddly fearful reporting, Hildy works on the school paper to report the facts. She is assisted by a former newspaper editor newly come to town who helps the teens with real reporting.
The first few chapters of the book were hard going for me. There was a feisty heroine and small-town idolization, and some odd character traits. Oh no. As I plugged on, I began to appreciate the story and the mystery. And the characters weren’t all so quirky after all.
I liked how journalism tips were folded into the story. Not only was it a mini-lesson on being a reporter, it served as a model for identifying good reporting. For instance, when the former newspaper editor (and new adult advisor) is taking apart a flowery article in the school paper, he tells the students, “Less is more. Less description, more facts. Only describe if it means something. The killer has one arm. The mayor was seven feet tall. The hero was deaf. For now, let’s not care if the sky was blue. If it’s plaid, mention it.”
There was a nice vein of humor throughout the book. A group of older people who stake out the Ludlow house to see if anything is really going there, calling themselves Elders Against Evil. An occasional insert of funny mistakes from the school paper. A psychic who offers advice on love and family, but also pet compatibility selection. But in the end, readers will remember the greater message of fighting against manipulation and for the truth.