On the other side of the underpass, I stop and gape. It’s as if I’ve entered a different world. Walls of lush plants tower over both sides of the street. Like a country road, it winds upwards, nestled in the dense greenery. To my right, a gravel track runs between the big road and the forest.
A little way up, the girl’s standing under large palm leaves on a path that leads into the woods. She waves me towards her, before she disappears behind the plants. It’s like we’re playing a game.
But when I reach the path she’s gone.
The Hungry Ghost is the second middle-grade novel by H S Norup. When Freja arrives in Singapore to live with her dad and his new family, she feels guilty about her mother’s illness and leaving her behind in Denmark. In Singapore it’s the seventh Chinese month – the ghost month – when deceased ancestors roam the earth to eat. Life in Singapore is very different to Freja’s normal life at home and she doesn’t want to fit into her dad’s new family. When she discovers a ghost in the back garden, Freja’s life is about to get even more challenging; she will have to overcome many obstacles if she is to help the ghost and come to terms with her own dark and scary family secrets.
What I really liked about this book was the sense of place. Norup gives readers a strong sense of place and culture in The Hungry Ghost. As an outsider, Freja is free to ask the questions readers have in their mind and is able to give wonderful insights into the Chinese traditions of the Hungry Ghost Festival without intruding on the story. Freja is resourceful while still being vulnerable making her both an interesting and engaging character. Brushed with mythology and fantasy, this exciting middle-grade adventure story will delight. I’m not sure if Bukit Brown – the cemetery in The Hungry Ghost – has been demolished yet, but I like to think that Norup has conserved it forever within the pages of her story. Many thanks to NetGalley and Pushkin Press for an electronic arc of this book. I am very much looking forward to receiving my own copy in paperback when my pre-order is delivered after the book’s release in September.