“Spielbergian.”

“Andrew Leon has written one heck of a book. He calls it, somewhat misleadingly, a "YA Book," and I suppose he does that because the book is pitched at a roughly tween-to-early-teen level, but like the best writing, this is anything but a "young adult" book, and also anything but typical: It sets up as a standard sort of haunted-house-for-tweens story in the, but that's only because Leon wants to lure you in and create a mood that will be perfect for the many twists and turns he's about to spring on you.

There is a lot to love about The House On The Corner, beginning with the point-of-view style in which it's told: Leon alternates the story among the three children, each telling a chapter. The chapters overlap slightly, so that we get each kid's perspective on what is happening, and the device works far better than I thought it would: Each kid has a unique voice and it's easy to tell who is doing the talking, and the shifts in perspective allow characterization to develop unbeknownst to the others. Tom, for example (the oldest kid) tells his third of the story with a creeping envy and more than a hint of temper as his brother and sister get to experience things he can't, while Ruth, the youngest, tells her side of things simply and without guile -- the way you'd expect a kid to reveal that otherworldly things are happening to her.

It's almost hard to talk about the plot of House without wrecking it for you, beyond what I've done here: What I'll say is this is not a "haunted house" story, it's not a vampire or werewolf or wizard story, it's not dystopian... House falls into its own category, or, if there is a category, I'd peg it with the Pevensies and Narnia: Leon creates a world here, populated by realistic kids, and the story of events that happen in that world doesn't fit neatly into a literary category we have.

So I won't talk much more about the plot -- instead, let me bestow another compliment: Spielbergian. Having seen E.T. and Super 8 and The Iron Giant and a host of movies about kids in nostalgic eras having adventures, Spielbergian, like Narnian, is a category, and it's also a tough category to live up to. Leon sets House in the 1980s, and as period trappings mentions music and Dungeons and Dragons and movies, especially movies: Tom and Sam are (as every kid was, then) hooked on Star Wars -- and Return of the Jedi has just come out. Leon mentions Jedi enough -- and more than that, some of his story elements deliberately invoke 80s movies such as Jedi and Empire Strikes Back and, I thought, at one point, Gremlins -- to make it fair to directly compare this work to Lucas' and Spielberg's best: That's what you get when you set your own young kids in the 1980s and throw weird things at them. But Leon is up to the task: he effectively builds a nostalgic world just waiting for something cool to come along that Spielberg (or J.J. Abrams, for that matter) would envy. Those D&D-playing, bike-riding kids from E.T. and the moviemakers of Super 8 wouldn't blink at all if put on the set of House, and I fully expect that someday House On The Corner will be hitting theaters near you.

I tore through this book. It is the mark of a good book if I can't wait to read it -- if I'll put aside my Deadspin and my New Yorker and my Tosh.0 and my Big Bang Theory to read the book, and with House, I did more than that: I devoted almost an entire Sunday to reading the last 1/5 of it because I couldn't wait to find out what happened.”