Read This Book

Read This Book: Small Spaces by Katherine Arden

Welcome to Read This Book, a weekly newsletter where I recommend one book that I think you absolutely must read. The books will vary across genre and age category to include new releases, backlist titles, and classics. If you’re ready to explode your TBR, buckle up!

This week’s pick is a creepy pick, of course, because tomorrow is Halloween! I went with a middle grade horror novel that I love…and totally scared my socks off!

Small Spaces by Katherine Arden

Olive is a kid who has lost her mom, and she’s not in the best of places. She spends her days reading, daydreaming, and holding herself back from making friends. When she picks up a mysterious book about a girl, two brothers who love her, and a dangerous deal with a mysterious Smiling Man, it’s just a distraction…or so she thinks.

One day, Olive and her classmates head to a nearby farm for a field trip, and when it’s over, their bus breaks down on the way back to town. While their teacher heads off to go get help, the kids are supposed to stay on the bus with the driver. But Olive very quickly gets a bad feeling, and she and two other kids leap out of the back door just in time to avoid being taken captive by a mysterious force in the woods. Now they’re caught in a weird liminal space where they have to outsmart the Smiling Man, who is very real indeed, or they’ll be stuck there forever. Olive has to learn how to accept help, and she discovers assistance from a very unlikely source.

This is a middle grade novel that I read in one massive gulp–I seriously couldn’t put it down! I read it when I was still not sure what I thought of horror novels, and it turns out that this was the perfect way for me to explore the genre because this book was unsettling but not disturbing–it’s written for kids, after all! Arden builds tension and suspense through Olive’s journey through grief, so that in order to save herself and her classmates Olive must open herself up to the pain she’s been avoiding and learn to trust others. The emotional heart of this story is as compelling as the high stakes thrills and action, but the beautiful fall setting that quickly turns into a nightmare of scarecrows and abandoned fields definitely had me shivering as well! If you’re curious about horror novels, or you want something creepy but not too chilling for this weekend, then I highly recommend picking up this book or any other middle grade horror novel for that matter!

Bonus: There’s a sequel called Dead Voices, in which Ollie and her new friends head to a haunted ski lodge, and it’s just as chilling and good!

Happy reading!

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