Sorry for the surprise hiatus, guys. I caught a nasty cold in early January and it’s taken a while for me to get well and then work up the gumption to write a review again. But I’m all better now and I have read quite a few books I look forward to sharing with you. 🙂
I admit, it took me way too long to get that each of Katherine Arden’s middle grade horror novels is set during a different season but once I knew that, I planned on reading the books during the “right” time. And the time for this wintery ghost-filled creepiness was now!
by Katherine Arden
Published: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers, 2019
eBook: 256 pages
Series: Small Spaces #2
My rating: 7.5/10
Opening line: Winter in East Evansburg, and just after dusk, five people in a beat-up old Subaru peeled out of town in a snowstorm.
Having survived sinister scarecrows and the malevolent smiling man in Small Spaces, newly minted best friends Ollie, Coco, and Brian are ready to spend a relaxing winter break skiing together with their parents at Mount Hemlock Resort. But when a snowstorm sets in, causing the power to flicker out and the cold to creep closer and closer, the three are forced to settle for hot chocolate and board games by the fire.
Ollie, Coco, and Brian are determined to make the best of being snowed in, but odd things keep happening. Coco is convinced she has seen a ghost, and Ollie is having nightmares about frostbitten girls pleading for help. Then Mr. Voland, a mysterious ghost hunter, arrives in the midst of the storm to investigate the hauntings at Hemlock Lodge. Ollie, Coco, and Brian want to trust him, but Ollie’s watch, which once saved them from the smiling man, has a new cautionary message: BEWARE.
With Mr. Voland’s help, Ollie, Coco, and Brian reach out to the dead voices at Mount Hemlock. Maybe the ghosts need their help–or maybe not all ghosts can or should be trusted.
Dead Voices is a terrifying follow-up to Small Spaces with thrills and chills galore and the captive foreboding of a classic ghost story.
Ollie, Coco, and Brian are going on a ski trip with Ollie’s dad and Coco’s mom and some of them are happier about this than others. Brian is all aglow dreaming of going down fast, Ollie is excited as well, and Coco… well, Coco is mostly scared but doesn’t want to be a spoilsport. She much prefers quiet games of chess to sporty outdoor activities. And oh how she hates it when Brian calls her Tiny!
I loved that this second book in Arden’s creepy quartet focuses more on Coco. The first book was all about Ollie (whom I still adore) but now that this trio of friends has formed, it was lovely to learn a bit more about the small and constantly underestimated Coco. The short girl with the pinkish blond hair who is great at climbing and has an A+ brain. I don’t read a lot of Middle Grade books and, just like with the first one in the series, I wish this would have existed when I was little. But I can still appreciate certain aspects of it as an adult.
First of all, the characters are lovely and different from each other and there’s so much to like about each one of them. And not just our three protagonists but the recurring side characters as well. I’ve been a fan of Ollie’s cooking, baking superdad since the get go and the way he takes care of everyone while they are snowed in was just as wonderful as expected. It’s still rare to read about a father figure who behaves in stereotypically mother-like ways. Being a caregiver, loving to feed people and play around in the kitchen. How refreshing! And it was equally refreshing and important how the other characters react to Ollie’s dad. Nobody finds his behavior strange, they mostly just adore his kitchen creations. 🙂
The series plot also moves forward as it looks like Ollie’s dad and Coco’s mom have formed at least a friendship, maybe more. Both Coco and Ollie have feelings about that, very different feelings. But the fact that they are best friends gives the potential pairing a different perspective and you can watch how Ollie is growing and handling the loss of her mother. The absolute loyalty between the three friends gave me endless amounts of joy, especially when they’re each dealing with complicated and new situations that they’re not sure how to handle emotionally.
But let’s not forget that this is actually a horror book. I loved Small Spaces but didn’t find it particularly scary from my adult point of view. This one started out similarly tame – characters think they see ghosts, they have strange dreams, and so on – but oh boy, does Katherine Arden turn it up by the middle! I don’t want to spoil anything for you guys, but even though I knew things would end well for our three kids, there were several moments that gave me chills and where I wasn’t certain at all how they would get out of it. If I had read this as a kid, I would have been creeped out in the best of ways.
I don’t know if each book will focus on a different character (if so, who will be the center of the last one, I wonder), but I really enjoyed getting to know Coco a bit better and especially having her be the one who does the work and saves the day. To be honest, I even got a little emotional at the end there. My instinct was to immediately pick up the next book in the series, but then I decided to stick with my plan of reading each book during the right season. So just a few more months, then I’ll dive into Arden’s springtime novel and hopefully get to see Brian as the hero.
MY RATING: 7.5/10 – Very good!