After suffering a tragic loss, eleven-year-old Ollie only finds solace in books. So when she happens upon a crazed woman at the river threatening to throw a book into the water, Ollie doesn’t think–she just acts, stealing the book and running away. As she begins to read the slender volume, Ollie discovers a chilling story about a girl named Beth, the two brothers who both loved her, and a peculiar deal made with “the smiling man,” a sinister specter who grants your most tightly held wish, but only for the ultimate price.
Ollie is captivated by the tale until her school trip the next day to Smoke Hollow, a local farm with a haunting history all its own. There she stumbles upon the graves of the very people she’s been reading about. Could it be the story about the smiling man is true? Ollie doesn’t have too long to think about the answer to that. On the way home, the school bus breaks down, sending their teacher back to the farm for help. But the strange bus driver has some advice for the kids left behind in his care: “Best get moving. At nightfall they’ll come for the rest of you.” Nightfall is, indeed, fast descending when Ollie’s previously broken digital wristwatch, a keepsake reminder of better times, begins a startling countdown and delivers a terrifying message: RUN.
Only Ollie and two of her classmates heed the bus driver’s warning. As the trio head out into the woods–bordered by a field of scarecrows that seem to be watching them–the bus driver has just one final piece of advice for Ollie and her friends: “Avoid large places. Keep to small.- Goodreads
Although I purchased a copy of Katherine Arden’s book The Bear and the Nightingale, this is my first read by her and man it was fantastic.
The entire time I was reading this book, I was thinking of the movie Jeepers Creepers. The scarecrows, the school bus breaking down everything . . . well mostly everything reminded me of this movie.
But to the book. It was creepy. Real creepy. Arden sets the stage for a horror movie but still is able to keep it PG. How? Talent.
Ollie is an interesting girl because she is really talented but also in mourning. So she doesn’t do anything outside of reading. Not like in most instances this is an issue but in the case of Ollie it is a bit because she was an interactive girl and then closed up. I don’t blame her.
But the best part of the book other than the creepiness is the story within the story. I wanted more of it because it integrated with the main story so well and when they came together in real time, it wasn’t awkward and most importantly it wasn’t forced. Thank GOD! It wasn’t forced.
I loved the pace of novel. It moved at the right speed to keep you so into the story. It wasn’t fluffed with un-needed backstory nor was it fluffed with questions. I didn’t feel as if I was missing something and another important thing is I didn’t feel like I need something. Everything was there and the book concluded with an actual conclusion; not a cliff hanger that will make you think there will be a book two.
Honestly, Ollie’s story is done. May not the mini story or the creepy scarecrows but Ollie herself does not need a book two.
This is a short review because I really do not have anything to say other than a fantastic read that made me go down memory lane about a movie, I use to watch with my dad.