Dead Voices by Katherine Arden. Grades 4-7. G.P. Putnam's Sons, August 2019. 256 pages. Reviewed from galley provided by publisher.
After the events of the fall, new best friends Ollie, Coco, and Brian are looking forward to winter break. They're heading up into the mountains to ski at Vermont's newest ski lodge, Mount Hemlock Resort. The lodge has never been open to the public before - it had been a school building before it was a report - and the kids are excited to visit.
But strange things start happening even on the way up the mountain as Ollie's dad drives through a heavy snowstorm. Coco wakes up from a nightmare and is certain she sees a person standing in the middle of the road with one hand raised as if saying STOP. But when their car swerves to a stop, there's nothing there.
Once they arrive at the resort, strange things start happening. The kids start having terrible nightmares and hearing strange sounds. A ghost hunter shows up at the resort and tells them the legend about Mother Hemlock, the head of the old school, and girls who were said to have died of fright.
And then Ollie's watch, a gift from her late mother that saved them from the Smiling Man this fall, suddenly shows a message: BEWARE.
This book is everything I wanted in a scary story. Although it's a sequel to Small Spaces, it stands alone sufficiently (though please don't deny yourself the joy of reading Small Spaces if you are a fan of scary stories). Dead Voices manages to use so many scary story tropes to full effect, and I mean that in the best way possible. It's truly a thrill ride and as I was reading it, I kept stopping to delight in the shivers going down my spine.
Katherine Arden is a master at creating atmosphere. From the harrowing car ride up the snowy mountain to the creepily haunted resort building, the foreboding atmosphere is almost palpable as you read and it helps to build tension.
Of course, I also love that the friends work together to try to figure out what's going on and to deal with the haunting once they're in the thick of it. I hear that this series will eventually contain four books, one for each season, and I can't wait to read more!
- Small Spaces by Katherine Arden (Putnam, 2018). Of course you'll want to pick up Arden's first scary middle grade novel, but this one can stand alone, too.
- Spirit Hunters by Ellen Oh (HarperCollins, 2017). In another terrifically creepy haunted house story, Harper has just moved with her family to a new house in Washington DC and her little brother starts talking to someone that none of the rest of them can see.
- Doll Bones by Holly Black (McElderry, 2013). The combination of creepiness and solid friendship story in these books makes them good readalikes.