by Chris Westwood
When Ben Harvester meets the mysterious Mr. October in London's Highgate Cemetery, he has no idea what a strange and dramatic turn his life is about to take. But Ben soon discovers that Mr. October works for the Ministry of Pandemonium, a secret organization responsible for tracking down lost souls and guiding them to the afterlife. And Mr. October wants him to be his new recruit.
As Ben's apprenticeship begins, his eyes are opened to a new world of wonder -- a world where magic is real and ghosts haunt every crime scene, accident site, and hospital corridor.
But with the wonder comes horror. Because the Ministry is not the only organization hunting spirits of the dead. The ghoulish Lords of Sundown want those spirits for their own sinister reasons. And as far as they're concerned, Ben's just chosen the wrong side in a very dangerous war. (description from Amazon.com)
This was a cool ghost story perfect for a middle school audience. Ben is a great character trying to balance his new position as an assistant at the Ministry of Pandemonium, helping the dead to find their afterlives, and being the best son he can possibly be to his mom, newly diagnosed with cancer. He revels in the satisfaction that his work brings him and he feels that it is an important and necessary job, but it takes him away when his mom might need him the most.
It's not until his mom's name appears on one of the lists for "pickup" that Ben realizes he may have to break ALL the rules...and lose not only his job, but the war against the Lords of Sundown, in order to save her. Ben's relationship with his mother is one of the best parts of this book. It's inspiring and touching. There were several heartfelt moments that had me threatening to tear up...
Though the first in a series, this book could also be read as a standalone.
Full disclosure: ARC received to review for SLJ