Small Spaces by Katherine Arden
Read by Rene Dorian
Publication Date: September 2018
Summary from Goodreads:
After suffering a tragic loss, eleven-year-old Ollie who only finds solace in books discovers a chilling ghost story about a girl named Beth, the two brothers who 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.
Captivated by the tale, Ollie begins to wonder if the smiling man might be real when she stumbles upon the graves of the very people she’s been reading about on a school trip to a nearby farm. Then, later, when her school bus breaks down on the ride home, the strange bus driver tells Ollie and her classmates: “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 begins a startling countdown and delivers a terrifying message: RUN.
Only Ollie and two of her classmates heed these warnings. 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.”
And with that, a deliciously creepy and hair-raising adventure begins.
I purchased this book for my school library last fall, but never had a chance to read it. As soon as the kids saw that cover and heard my book talk they wanted to read it. It was always checked out. I still probably wouldn’t have gotten around to reading it this summer, but I saw that a sequel was coming out and so I decided that there was no time like the present.
This story starts out normal enough. Ollie is a likable girl from the start, and although we know that something happened to her recently, we don’t know what exactly until the middle of the book. We just know that she is dealing with grief, and having a rough time. She doesn’t have friends, but she is willing to stick up for the new girl when she is being bullied. She has given up doing the things that she enjoyed because of her grief as well. She just wants to hide away with her books. She has a great relationship with her dad, which was great to see. Her dad was nice too, very supportive, but willing to give her space when she needed it, and encouragement as well.
The other two kids in this adventure, were just as well written as Ollie. Coco was the new girl, and she tried really hard to become Ollie’s friend in the beginning even after Ollie refused her advances. Brian was the cool boy in the class, and it is obvious that he has a crush on Ollie, but she wants nothing to do with him. They do eventually start to like each other as they go through their adventure and eventually end up as friends.
Although the characters are well done it is the plot and the setting that really makes this book an exceptional read. It takes a while for the spooky stuff to really take hold, but when it does there is no going back. It almost made me want to crawl into a small space and hide. I never thought of scarecrows as particularly scary, but I don’t think I can look at one the same way after this book. The book does start off a little slow, but once it gets going it is hard to put down. Like all good middle grade scary books it has just the right amount of creepiness.
If you know a middle grade person who loves scary stories, then you must get this one into their hands. I am really looking forward to seeing this group of kids handle their next adventure.