Small Spaces #1 by Katherine Arden
Narrated by: Renee Dorian
September 25, 2018
Some books were made for October and Halloween and this is definitely one of them. Small Spaces is a creepy story that takes you close to the edge and lets you look over while sending chills down your spine.
After suffering a tragic loss, eleven-year-old Ollie only finds solace in books. So when she happens upon a crazed woman at the river threatening to throw a book into the water, Ollie doesn’t think–she just acts, stealing the book and running away. As she begins to read the slender volume, Ollie discovers a chilling story about a girl named Beth, the two brothers who both loved her, and a peculiar deal made with “the smiling man,” a sinister specter who grants your most tightly held wish, but only for the ultimate price.
Ollie is captivated by the tale until her school trip the next day to Smoke Hollow, a local farm with a haunting history all its own. There she stumbles upon the graves of the very people she’s been reading about. Could it be the story about the smiling man is true? Ollie doesn’t have too long to think about the answer to that. On the way home, the school bus breaks down, sending their teacher back to the farm for help. But the strange bus driver has some advice for the kids left behind in his care: “Best get moving. At nightfall they’ll come for the rest of you.” Nightfall is, indeed, fast descending when Ollie’s previously broken digital wristwatch, a keepsake reminder of better times, begins a startling countdown and delivers a terrifying message: RUN.
Only Ollie and two of her classmates heed the bus driver’s warning. As the trio head out into the woods–bordered by a field of scarecrows that seem to be watching them–the bus driver has just one final piece of advice for Ollie and her friends: “Avoid large places. Keep to small.”
And with that, a deliciously creepy and hair-raising adventure begins.
What a truly excellent book. Personally, I can’t read enough spooky middle grade books. I remember as a child receiving a very large book of spooky stories and just loving it to pieces. I also have to give props to the cover designer who designed a perfect scene from the book with just the right ‘dusk’ colors and a very creepy scarecrow.
In this book we meet Ollie who is grieving the loss of her mother. She’s pushing people away who would like to be her friends, but yet will stand up for them when they get bullied too. After one such incident she travels to a private location next to a body of water when she sees what looks like a crazy lady who is throwing away a perfectly good book into the water. Ollie decides that there are better options for books than what the crazy lady is suggesting so she grabs it from the lady and rides off, but not before the lady gives her a bit of advice “Stay in small spaces.” Once home, Ollie decides to try reading the book and begins to learn the story of a woman, the man she loves and his brother. The next day at school, on Farm Day, someone from her class asks the teacher about the ghost stories around town. As the teacher goes into the story, some of it begins to sound very familiar to what Ollie has been reading in that book.
The creep factor for this middle grade book is fantastic. We all love scarecrows, but let’s just admit we love them with a wary eye. In this book that wary eye pays dividends since the scarecrows in this book can move. Nothing creepier than a scarecrow moving by itself and advancing on you when you’re not looking at it.
Audio Book Review:
I didn’t mean to listen to this audio book all in one day, but I was so drawn into the story that I couldn’t help it. Initially, when I started the book I remember being a bit surprised by the high-pitched female voice. I don’t know why – the protagonist is a young girl and once I reminded myself that the narrator was not “supposed” to have a deep voice, I felt kinda silly.
Overall, the narration was nicely done. I felt Ollie’s anger and sadness as she learns how to navigate a world without her mother. But I also felt the suspense in the story, especially once the school bus stops and the kids are basically trying to escape whatever is after them. “Run!”
Length: 5 hrs 16 min
Rating: 5 stars