Annotation: As part of a school assignment, fourteen-year-old Haley Brown decides to study her ancestor, Mercy Brown, who died of consumption at age nineteen and was thought to have been a vampire who sucked the life from her remaining siblings after her death. The more she learns about Mercy, the more Haley fears that she is being haunted by the restless spirit who seeks to prove the truth about her death.
Personal thoughts: As a big fan of history, I was really looking forward to this novel because it is based on a true story, something I had never really experienced in paranormal young adult literature. I was not disappointed! Although the novel is short, the author does an excellent job of creating the appropriate atmosphere for Haley’s encountering the ghost of Mercy Brown. I also felt that the liberties the author took in fictionalizing Mercy’s story into a ghostly mystery were really well done. I would highly recommend this novel to history buffs, both teen and adult.
Plot summary: Fourteen-year-old Haley Brown is struggling with a lot of uncertainty in her life. Her cousin and close friend, Jake, is dying from an unknown chronic illness. Her dad and stepmother seem to be perpetually focused on her two-year-old half brother, Eddie. And her mom, who left their home in Rhode Island to live in New York City, promises Haley a Thanksgiving dinner of takeout when she comes to visit. To make matters worse, Haley has been assigned to research one of her ancestors, and decides to do her project on Mercy Brown. Mercy, who lived in the late 1800s, died of consumption at age 19. Her mother and older sister Grace died of the disease before her, and after her death, her younger brother Edwin fell ill. Determined to protect his only son, Mercy’s father, at the request of the townspeople, exhumed Mercy’s body. When it was found that her heart contained fresh blood, she was branded a vampire who was returning from beyond the grave to suck the life out of her brother. Her heart was burned, and Mercy’s name was forever slandered. As Haley learns more about Mercy’s life, strange things begin happening. Haley is plagued by the disembodied sound of a beating heart, icy cold sensations, and mysterious messages left for her to see. Could the ghost of Mercy have returned to help Haley clear her name as a vampire?
|Mercy Brown's headstone|
Exeter, Rhode Island
Genre: Fiction/Ghost Story
Reading level: Grade 6+
Similar titles: Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake, The Poisoned House by Michael Ford, Tighter by Adele Griffin, Haunting Violet by Alyxandra Harvey, Lark by Tracey Porter.
Themes: Ghosts, vampires, New England, family history, haunting, mystery.
Awards/Reviews: Positive reviews from Amanda Marrone, author of Devoured, Michael Bell, author of Food for the Dead, and Christopher Rondina, author of Vampires of New England.
Series Information: N/A
Discussion questions:- Why do you think Haley preferred to talk to Jake more than her father or stepmother?
- Do you think Haley was being a good friend to Mel? Why or why not?
- Why do you think Aunt Brown didn’t want Haley to bring Sunny to her house?
- Do you think Haley’s feelings towards Eddie changed as the story progressed? How?
- Research the real Mercy Brown. Is there anything about her life that is not included in the novel?
- What role did superstition play in Mercy’s time? How have things changed?