September 01, 2020
Rae’s father vanished without a trace—and Rae knows what happened to him. But no one believes her when she says that her father didn’t run off, that he was actually taken. Now, a year of therapy later, Rae’s mother decides they need a fresh start, and so they move to a new town in the hope that life can return to normal.
The problem is, there is nothing normal about the town of Whispering Pines.
No one knows this better than Caden. He’s lived in Whispering Pines his entire life, and he’s seen more than his fair share of weird—starting with his own family, as the town is the perfect home base for his mother’s ghost hunting business.
When several kids go missing and then show up like zombies with their eyes removed, many locals brush it off. Just another day in Whispering Pines. But Caden has a dark secret, one that may explain why someone is stealing eyes. And Rae, who knows how it feels to not be believed, may be just the person Caden needs to help him put things right.
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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.
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