Rummanah Aasi
 After eleven-year-old Ollie's school bus mysteriously breaks down on a field trip, she has to take a trip through scary woods, and must use all of her wits to survive. She must stick to small spaces.

Review: Small Spaces is Katherine Arden's debut middle grade novel. This spooky tale follows Ollie who is still reeling from the death of her beloved mother. Ollie has drawn inward, grieves on her own, and does not socialize with any of her classmates. When she has a strange encounter with a distressed woman and retrieves the book the woman is trying to discard, Ollie finds herself captivated by its tale of two brothers; Beth, the woman they love; and a sinister “smiling man.” 
    On a school field trip the next day, a series of eerie mishaps strands Ollie and a busload of her classmates near a farm exactly like the one in the book. Only two other students, Coco and Brian, believe her when she insists they are all in danger. Ollie knows that the smiling man’s army of once-human scarecrows can attack them if they’re found out in the open. She has been told to stick to small spaces as the book title suggests. The entire class is doomed to be the victims of an age-old bargain unless Ollie, Coco, and Brian can save them. 
    Not only does Small Spaces have a captivating plot that will keep the pages turning, the characters make this story pop. Ollie, Coco, and Brian are an unlikely trio but they help one another overcome their fears and learn to trust while breaking down their preconceived notions of each other. The characters come off as likable and believable, hinting at self actualization along with making mistakes due to their immaturity. While the book concludes nicely with an uplifting ending, there are indications that the story is not over. Small Spaces is a great Halloween pick or if a young reader is eager to read a creepy but not overtly scary book. I look forward to seeing what adventures lie ahead for Ollie, Coco, and Brian.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There are some disturbing and creepy images. Recommended for Grades 5 and up.

If you like this book try: Dead Voices by Katherine Arden, Scary Stories for Young Foxes by Christian McKay Heidicker, Coraline by Neil Gaiman, and Nightbooks by J.A. White
1 Response
  1. I'm not good at scary books, but I can really see middle grade students liking this one.

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