A Bite Above the Rest

A Bite Above the Rest
Age Range
Release Date
August 06, 2024
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When Caleb’s mom decides they are moving to her childhood home in Wisconsin, Caleb is not thrilled. Moving schools, states, and time zones would be bad enough, but Mom’s hometown is Samhain, a small and ridiculously kitschy place where every day is Halloween.

Caleb is not a fan of Halloween when it only happens once a year, so Halloween-obsessed Samhain is really not the place for him. How is he supposed to cope with kids wearing costumes to school every single day? And how about the fact that the mayor is so committed to the bit that City Hall is only open from sundown to sunup to accommodate his so-called vampirism? Sure enough, Caleb becomes an outcast at school for refusing to play along with the spooky tradition like the other sixth graders. Luckily, he manages to find a friend in fellow misfit Tai, and just in time, because things are getting weird in Samhain…or make that weirder.

But there’s no way the mayor is an actual vampire, and their teacher absolutely cannot really be a werewolf—right? Caleb discovers Samhain is so much stranger than he ever could have imagined. As one of the only people who realizes what’s happening, can he save a town that doesn’t want saving?

Editor review

1 review
Monsters among us
Overall rating
Writing Style
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
What worked:
Caleb’s difficulty fitting in may resonate with some young readers. He’s warned that he needs to wear a Halloween costume to school but he refuses. He’s okay with his decision but it doesn’t make the hallway stares and bullying any easier. He then chooses to wear creative “costumes” based on puns and wordplay. For example, he glues plastic coins on his shirt and calls himself a quarterback. Caleb’s father has passed away and Caleb misses him dearly. He promised his father that he’d take care of his mother so Caleb feels like he must keep all of his pain to himself. He doesn’t want to worry her so he keeps his sorrow and insecurities bottled up inside.
Tai becomes Caleb’s best friend and she’s the most interesting character. She’s embraced the concept of the town celebrating Halloween year-round as she’s dressed as a fairy when Caleb first meets her. She’s also thrilled when Caleb thinks the zombie mannequin on her porch is really “alive”. She’s most upset that her parents’ idea to start a shop featuring things to ward off the supernatural, like holy water, wooden stakes, and amulets, was not granted a permit by the town. Tai convinces Caleb to partner with her on a class project where they’ll investigate the mayor and the town’s reasons for not supporting her parents’ plan. Despite the dangers they uncover, Caleb realizes he doesn’t want to flee Samhain and Tai and lose the closest friends he’s ever had.
The author tries to leave room for doubt but it’s quickly evident that real monsters are living in Samhain. Caleb suspects this right away but he’s forced to find ways to convince Tai and his mom; he won’t tell his mom about any of it until he’s certain. How can he prove monsters are living in Samhain without endangering himself? What will happen to the town if the citizens realize vampires and werewolves are living among them? Caleb and Tai try to uncover the mystery but discover everyone in town who might have information has forgotten what they once knew. Caleb is surprised to discover the cause and the thought of the monsters watching him is unnerving. The author uses these events to create suspense as the plot counts down to Halloween.
What didn’t work as well:
The climax is a little anti-climactic as readers might expect more of a face-to-face confrontation. Caleb’s plan works but, surprisingly, there’s not more resistance as it unfolds.
The final verdict:
This book will be hugely popular for lovers of Halloween! Caleb versus the Samhain monsters is the main topic of the plot but his grief after losing his father and his budding friendship with Tai are equally engaging. Overall, this book will be enjoyed by most young readers and I recommend you give it a shot.
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