Wednesday 20 April 2022

The Vexatious Haunting of Lily Griffin

The Vexatious Haunting of Lily Griffin by Paula Hayes, illustrated by Kay Jiang (Fremantle Press) ISBN 9781760 991753 PB RRP $19.95

Reviewed by Nean McKenzie

Written in first person, this middle-grade novel tells the story of Lilly Griffin, her family, her friends, and a bunch of unspooky ghosts. Set in the fictitious town of Treebark, Western Australia, The Vexatious Haunting of Lily Griffin is three shorter books combined. Each one has a distinct finish before the characters continue to another adventure. The stories cover quite a bit of ground, including the death of a grandma, moving house, the transformation of a brother from a bully into a decent human being, becoming an auntie, the anxieties of making new friends … all while living in the rather magical house of Lilly’s grandfather (GG).

Eleven-year-old Lily’s voice, written in the form of a diary, is distinct right from the start. She loves Harry Potter, is a walking thesaurus and overthinks things just a bit (in a humorous way). She is also able to see ghosts: her great aunt, who she sees trapped in a mirror and a poltergeist called Edgar who is obsessed with cakes. This makes for interesting adventures, which she shares with her new friends Isabella, Cat, and Clive in between games of nettitch and sleepovers.

Amongst the fun and adventures, some more serious topics are touched on. Lily’s nan has dementia and dies. Her mother, who is adopted, searches for her birth parents in Vietnam. There are also dramas between Lily’s father and her older brother Linden, who is having trouble with his marks at school.  While Lily’s journal focuses more on her friends and the ghosts, these things are going on in the background. Over the span of the novel, as she approaches her twelfth birthday, Lily becomes more aware of what is going on around her.

The Vexatious Haunting of Lily Griffin is suitable for 8-12-year-olds. At 440 pages, it is long for middle-grade, but great for those who want to read more about the quirky Lily to have the three books there at once.

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