Small Spaces by Katherine Arden
Bestselling adult author of The Bear and the Nightingale makes her middle grade debut with a creepy, spellbinding ghost story destined to become a classic
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.”
And with that, a deliciously creepy and hair-raising adventure begins.
I have no idea if middle grade has always been this good or if they’ve just really stepped up the game the past two years. I loved this one!
Small Spaces was so much creepier than I expected it to be. My weather helped me out and it started thundering while I was reading it, too. It was perfect.
I have to talk about the perfect setting. Corn mazes and fields are super creepy. I’ve lived by corn fields my whole life and they still creep me out at times. I can’t help but think of Children of the Corn. Thinking about a school bus breaking down by a corn field would definitely make me panic. Especially if I was 11. And then there are the scarecrows. Those are scary enough as it is. But these scarecrows are sort of alive. They move around and you’ll find out more about them as you get closer to the end of the book.
The characters are so easy to adore, too. Ollie lost her mom and hasn’t really been into anything since. She’s super smart and a bit of a loner. Coco is the new girl at school. She gets made fun of a lot and is tiny. Brian is a popular jock that reads. None of them are friends, but they end up stuck together in this weird other world. The friendship that came out of that was my favorite thing. I’m such a sucker for people so opposite finding friendship.
Ollie takes a book from a woman. In this book, Small Spaces, there is a story about a smiling man that makes deals. Little did she know, the book was a true story that happened at a local farm. Ollie uses this book, her mother’s broken watch (with some help from her mom), and her new friends to try to rescue their whole class.
I gave this book 5 stars. It’s the perfect October read and I think a lot of adults will end up liking it, too.
Have you read Small Spaces yet? What are some of the books you’re hoping to read in October that fit into the fall and Halloween theme?