Aside from the obvious attraction of demons ripping out people's eyes in the woods,(which a surprising amount of middle grade readers enjoy reading about) there's a lot of psychological horror in this-- parents not quite believing things are going wrong, which is scarier on a deeper level. I thought it was a great touch that Rae was able to make friends right away; it's a tired trope when main characters can't. Caden's position in school society is realistic, but again, it was nice that Rae befriended him despite his quirks. The adults all seem fairly untrustworthy, but some end up being really bad while others, like Caden's mom, are surprisingly supportive. Alyssa was an interesting character; mysterious, and I still don't know exactly what her motives are. Personally, my favorite part was that Rae ran cross country, although I was confused by try outs. Everyone always made our team, which is why at one point we had 75 runners! Definitely purchasing. Did I mention the murderous demons?
For readers who like more of a clue-oriented detective story, there is also a mystery with a missing father added to the creepiness of Whispering Pines.
My students ADORE creepy books. Demons who rip out people's eyes in the creepiest ways. Children chained to furnaces in basements. Magic spells that get kids in trouble. I've never seen Stranger Things, but will definitely hand this to students who are wearing t shirts from that show, as well as student who have enjoyed Hermon's Hide and Seeker, Currie's Scritch Scratch, and the works of K.R. Alexander and Joel Sutherland.