The House Where Nobody Lived by John Bellairs & Brad Strickland
The House Where Nobody Lived is the eleventh (and penultimate) novel in John Bellairs & Brad Strickland’s LEWIS BARNAVELT series. These are stand-alone horror mysteries for kids. I’ve been listening to Recorded Books’ audio versions with my daughter. We love George Guidall’s performance.
This story starts with a flashback to the beginning of the series when Lewis is 11 years old and it’s been just over a year since his parents died and he moved in with Uncle Jonathan. Lewis and his best friend, Rose Rita, are exploring New Zebedee, their hometown which is still new to Lewis, when they discover an odd-looking house that nobody lives in. They get scared off when they hear a drum beating in the empty house.
The adults, Uncle Jonathan and Mrs. Zimmerman, tell them that a man with a Hawaiian wife lived there a long time ago but the family all died mysteriously, the house got a bad reputation, and nobody else ever moved in. The adults make the kids promise to never go near it again.
Fast-forward a couple years and the kids are now 13. When a new boy shows up at school and other kids make fun of his stutter, Lewis and Rose Rita befriend him and find out that he lives in the “Hawaiian House.” When the new boy starts looking haggard and acting weird, Lewis and Rose Rita suspect that the spooky house is to blame.
The kids don’t know much about Hawaii but by the end of the story, they will have learned some of its mythology. Most prominent are the legends of Pele, the goddess of volcanoes who created and defends the Hawaiian islands, and the Huaka’i Po (Night Marchers), the ghosts of warriors who will take the souls of people whose beds are in their marching path. Those were the drummers that the kids heard when they first visited the house. They will also learn about elemental spirits.
As I’ve mentioned before, the LEWIS BARNAVELT novels are becoming repetitive. There’s always something new to learn, such as the Hawaiian mythology in this book, and it’s always nice to spend time with Lewis and Rose Rita (I love that, in this book, she’s mad that she has to take a Home Economics class), and I always like the new characters, but the stories are feeling too similar to each other at this point. As just one example, we are pretty much guaranteed that Lewis will experience nightmares from whatever new supernatural being he encounters in each book. And, even though I love that Lewis musters up his courage to face his fears and do the brave thing in each story, even that is part of the formula. It’s probably best to not read these novels back-to-back like we did. On their own, each is charming and fun.