Harvest House

Harvest House
Age Range
Release Date
April 11, 2023
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NSK Neustadt Laureate and New York Times best-selling author Cynthia Leitich Smith delivers a thrilling cross-genre follow-up to the acclaimed Hearts Unbroken.

Deftly leading readers to the literary crossroads of contemporary realism and haunting mystery, Cynthia Leitich Smith revisits the world of her American Indian Youth Literature Award winner Hearts Unbroken. Halloween is near, and Hughie Wolfe is volunteering at a new rural attraction: Harvest House. He’s excited to take part in the fun, spooky show—until he learns that an actor playing the vengeful spirit of an “Indian maiden,” a ghost inspired by local legend, will headline. Folklore aside, unusual things have been happening at night at the crossroads near Harvest House. A creepy man is stalking teenage girls and young women, particularly Indigenous women; dogs are fretful and on edge; and wild animals are behaving strangely. While Hughie weighs how and when to speak up about the bigoted legend, he and his friends begin to investigate the crossroads and whether it might be haunted after all. As Moon rises on All Hallow’s Eve, will they be able to protect themselves and their community? Gripping and evocative, Harvest House showcases a versatile storyteller at her spooky, unsettling best.

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1 review
Harvest House
(Updated: January 09, 2023)
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Hughie Wolfe is excited to be part of Harvest House, his community's Halloween project until he finds out that the legend of the "Indian maiden" will be the highlight. There have been rumors in the town of a supernatural presence that seems attracted to mostly Indigenous women. Some of these women have gone missing without police or authorities investigating what happened. Then Hughie's friend Sam's sister posts online a video that is creepy and becomes viral. Is there a malevolent presence in town? Add to this his high school teacher, Ms. Fischer, seems insensitive to Hughie's concerns about keeping the offensive Indigenous stereotypes in the haunted house. He's conflicted on how to address if he should speak up in the face of racism in his town. His friends start to investigate the truth behind the legend and if the house is really haunted.

What worked: I love diverse stories that have strong protagonists. Hughie is proud of his Indigenous heritage and not afraid to take a stand on what he knows to be wrong. In this case, though he's at first surprised that Ms. Fischer would recommend certain things to be added to a haunted house. Things that are offensive, like using Hollywood-type stereotypes of vengeful Indigenous spirits on burial grounds.

Hughie stays with the production thinking his presence might help redo the myths and stereotypes. Only he finds that isn't the case. This part of the story felt so real to me. I could feel his frustration and even anger that some people in town and his school continued to brush off his concerns as him being too sensitive.

Then there's the POV of Celeste, a spirit who looks out for those Indigenous girls/women who are targeted. The mystery behind who she might be is one that Hughie and his friends search for.

This also has a sweet romance going on between Hughie and Marie. She helps the others by looking into who the identity of the Crossroads Ghost. I really liked the interactions all the friends had with each other.

There's more than social issues in this engaging story. There's a paranormal mystery that might in fact be based on some truth. Friends that investigate the mystery and stay true to not only each other but their own Indigenous heritage. Plus, there's mention of missing Indigenous girls and women who often are overlooked.

Gripping tale where contemporary fiction meets a ghostly mystery. Overall, this story is one that has a powerful punch with an urban legends backdrop. Perfect for those who love spooky tales!

Good Points
1. Intriguing contemporary meets ghostly mystery
2. Realistic portrayal of Indigenous people and tackles stereotypes
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