Review Detail

Middle Grade Fiction 415
Ending a curse through forgiveness.
Overall rating
 
4.3
Plot
 
5.0
Characters
 
4.0
Writing Style
 
4.0
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
 
N/A
What worked:
People in the town of Westfield have been disappearing over the years, and no trace of them has ever been found. No one notices a pattern except for a teacher, Mr. Cotter, who witnesses his friend’s disappearance when he was younger. Charlie feels sadness too when one of his classmates goes missing, but he’s devastated when his father dies while searching for the boy. Charlie has more information about the missing boy, but it’s unclear why he doesn’t share it with the police. Why won’t he tell them what he sees in the park?
The concepts of friendship and bullies are addressed, as Charlie and his buddies deal with life changes. Obviously, Charlie is struggling with the death of his father, and his mother is taking it especially hard. She’s considering moving back to Nashville even though they’ve lived in Westfield for less than a year. Charlie’s unaware of her thinking, and he’s fretting over how his best friend Ezra will be moving in a month or two. Ezra’s parents are recently divorced, so his mom is moving them to Oklahoma. Charlie will be losing his best friend, so they decide to help their friend Josey with his crime-solving-like podcast for one last summer adventure. The project comes with dangers, but the boys’ bond is a key to success, and survival.
The story is mostly a ghost story in addition to being a missing-person mystery. The rumored haunting at the site of the previous school introduces more possibilities as to what’s going on. The disappearances of twelve-year-old boys occur during severe storms, and witnesses say they feel cold and emptiness trying to engulf them. Mr. Cotter is first to notice the six-year pattern has changed this time, and he fears the emptiness has targeted one specific person. The incidents become more personal to the characters, as the author cranks up the eeriness and tension. The plot builds to an emotionally suspenseful climax that will have readers unable to put the book down.
What didn’t work as well:
Stories that follow one main character are easier to follow, but this book follows several. In addition, the story contains flashbacks with different characters that affect the flow of the overall plot. The changes don’t happen at regular intervals, and the time changes vary from twenty years to five minutes. It temporarily distracts the focus and makes me recalibrate what’s happening and doesn’t work as well for me.
The Final Verdict:
Ending a curse through forgiveness. The author masterfully transforms the story from the boys’ summer adventure into a terrifying ghost story. The intensity of the threat gradually increases until it becomes a matter of survival. Overall, I highly recommend you give this book a shot.
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