The Black Slide

 
3.8 (2)
 
0.0 (0)
126 0
The Black Slide
Author(s)
Age Range
8+
Release Date
August 16, 2022
ISBN
978-0062990556
Buy This Book
      
Griffin Birch isn’t known for being brave, but there’s something about the new black slide on the elementary school playground that’s made him curious. Against his better judgement, he just has to follow his best friend Laila down.

But the Black Slide is no ordinary piece of playground equipment. What Griffin and Laila find at the other end of this strange portal is a cruel world, populated by bloodthirsty creatures on a quest to become immortal.

And it’s up to Griffin to save himself, his best friend—and the future of earth itself.

Fans of classic horrorwill devour this creepy adventure packed with more twists and turns than the ominous black slide itself.

Editor reviews

2 reviews
Soft dies, hard survives.
Overall rating
 
4.0
Plot
 
4.0
Characters
 
4.0
Writing Style
 
4.0
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
 
N/A
What worked:
The immediate thing readers will notice is how the author skillfully wields vocabulary and language to create an eerie, spooky setting. Everything about the Black Slide is creepy from the time it mysteriously appears on the playground, as it casts its air of evil around the students, and into a dark and dangerous world of agony. Students end up in the Painful Place, are held captive by the Merciless, and are experimented on in the painground. Those terms should give you a good idea of what to expect as you read the story.
The issue of physical abuse is part of the story as Griffin’s father used to hurt him. Griffin is happy the man is no longer around and doesn’t hide the relief he feels from his father’s absence. The plot mirrors the topic of abuse as the Merciless put kids through excruciating experiments with little hope of escape. All kinds of stone/metallic creatures roam the desolate world and every one of them is designed to inflict torture. Constant danger with nowhere to hide generates bleak feelings of despair.
Griffin and Laila are inseparable friends. Laila happens to be very athletic and aggressive and acts as a bodyguard when Griffin is being bullied or finds himself in harm’s way. They know everything about each other’s lives and Laila has been supportive through Griffin’s disconcerting home life. Griffin’s passion is reptiles as he cares for several in his room and has a broad range of knowledge about them. Laila’s infatuation is with space as evidenced by the decorations and three telescopes found in her room. The close friends exchange a cute mantra with each other when situations are especially challenging which always boosts their morale. The mantra is repeated often in the Painful Place.
What didn’t work as well:
Without giving anything away, the potential tension of the Black Slide and the Painful Place is lessened when the characters are told the problem will go away in due time. Things are still frightening but the impression is the situation will improve if they wait long enough. Griffin and Laila are still motivated to escape the present and future pain awaiting them which keeps the story going.
The Final Verdict:
This book tells a strange, imaginative story of pain, suffering, and friendship that will challenge readers’ imaginations. It contains a lot of darkness and fear but the highlight is the author’s creative, expert talent with description and evoking emotions. I recommend you give this book a shot.
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Middle Grade Fever Dream
Overall rating
 
3.7
Plot
 
4.0
Characters
 
3.0
Writing Style
 
4.0
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
 
N/A
Griffin Birch isn't a huge fan of school, and refers to his classroom as the "Torture Chamber", where his fifth grade teacher demands that the children not look out the window at the playground. It's hard not to, especially when a weird black slide appears there. It looks like it is made of leather, and no one knows where it came from. When Griffin is the first one to go down it, he has a very weird experience; he feels like he was falling for a very long time and everyone, including his best friend Laila, blames this on the concussion they say he suffered after being injured in the slide and breaking his arm. When classmates start to go missing, and Griffin sees them approaching the slide, going down it, and never coming out, he has his suspicions. It only seems to affect the fifth graders, so when he sees Laila at the slide, he rushes out to save her. The two go down the slide together and end up in a weird and horrible world. There are weird, metal beings whose voices grate on the senses, and the children seem hypnotized and hopeless. There seems to be no escape, and the children are subject to horrible experiments, so that the area is dubbed the "Painful Place" or "the painground". They suffer at the hands of the Merciless, who have told the children that when the experiments are done, they will go home. To Griffin and Laila, along with classmates Desda and Ozzie, this seems unlikely. There are constant, senseless attacks by creatures of frightening intensity, and nothing makes sense. After running and fighting for ages, they meet Leech, who claims he can help them defeat the Merciless and escape, if they help her get inside the Forge. Can Griffin accomplish this, and even if he can, will it help him and his friends get out?
Good Points
This was certainly very rich in gruesome imagery and horrible descriptions, from cold air that smelled like "the chemical smell a bathroom has after it's cleaned", to the Merciless, who have "white heads glowing like moons above their shiny black robes". There's constant screaming and torture; the best description I can offer is a middle grade fever dream that starts on a very, very dark playground. The writing felt very cinematic, like someone describing a horror film to me. It's super creepy, and I started to wonder if Griffin and his classmates would ever get out. At first I thought this was going to be a bit like Dr. Fell's Playground of Doom, but the book this really reminded me of was Alexander Gordon Smith's Lockdown (2009) (Escape from Furnace) series, and that was mainly because of the violence and gore. This gets bonus points for novelty of form and content; I went into this thinking it would be like The Smashed Man of Dread End, but if Ocker's first novel is a dark and twisted Monkees' television episode, The Black Slide is the Monkee's Head.

Because of the fever dream feel, the plot is rather secondary to all of the descriptions of torture. There is also a disturbing scene of Griffin's father abusing him and harming his lizard which should be mentioned in case this book is handed to tender hearted elementary school students; we have hints all along that Griffin's father has left the family because he was abusive, but I was a bit surprised at the graphic nature of this abuse. Supernatural monsters ripping people apart is different from human-on-human violence. Somehow.

This felt very experimental, and I feel like my students are either going to love it to pieces or not know what to do with it. I'm going to have to feel out my horror lovers on this one; it's quite effective, but an odd convergence of fifth grade playground and horrific monsters torturing children! Certainly one to read if you are a fan of scary books!
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