Halloween may be over, but I’m still reading books to make you want to keep the light on at night.
The Plentiful Darkness
by Heather Kassner
Henry Holt, 2021
Read from library copy.
Rooney lives on the streets of the town of Warybone, alone ever since her parents died of the feather flu. Her only way of making a living is catching the moonlight that powers the city in a compact-sized magic mirror, though competition with the other orphans in the city is stiff. Her only friends are the rats that live in the alley with her. Then, one of the rival boys steals her mirror and then gets thrown into a well of darkness that the town witch suddenly makes appear in front of him. Naturally, Rooney follows Trick. And finds that they are trapped, with many other children led by a capricious girl named Sorka, in a world of darkness from which there seems to be no escape. It’s a story of the lengths to which grief can push people, and of discovering friendship in quite literally the darkest of times. This is one my mother borrowed from my library shelf while she was over and took home to finish the last 40 pages.
by Jacqueline West.
Read by Jesse Vilinsky.
Greenwillow/Harper Audio, 2021
Listened to audiobook on Libby.
Fiona is crushed and resentful when she’s forced to move to the tiny old-fashioned town of Lost Lake, leaving behind the friends she’s finally made, all in order to support her perfect older sister Arden’s ice skating career. The only good thing about the new town is the library, housed in an old mansion. There she finds an uncatalogued book in the mystery section called The Lost One. It tells the story of two sisters, Hazel and Pearl, growing up in a town remarkably like Lost Lake a century earlier, two sisters who did everything together until the day one of them disappeared. Fiona is soon obsessed with the mystery, especially when the book itself keeps disappearing. Were Hazel and Pearl real people, and is the story the book tells the truth or a fantasy set in her own town? And is their sad fate destined to happen to her and Arden as well, since they also used to be close? While the creepiness factor is high, it was the sibling struggles that made me tear up while listening. This is a wonderful blend of historical and modern, with plenty of eerie phenomena as well the strengths and strains of sisterhood.
I’ve also enjoyed a few of her previous books, including The Collectors.
and the Forest of Nightmares
by Tehlor Kay Mejia
Rick Riordan Presents, 2021
Read from library copy.
Paola and her friends return in this second book, following Paola Santiago and the River of Tears. Except that as the story opens, Paola hasn’t been seeing much of her friends. Emma is now involved with the LGBTQ club at school, which Paola supports but feels out of place attending. Dante is avoiding her for unknown reasons – maybe that hand holding at the end of the previous book got too awkward? Even the tenuous peace with her mother is falling apart. But worst of all are the nightmares, repeated dreams of walking down a forest path surrounded by glowing eyes, headed towards the father she doesn’t remember. Soon, Dante’s grandmother’s health is at risk, and Paola feels she has no choice but to solve the mystery, even if Dante still doesn’t want to talk to her, and multiple scary creatures from Mexican-American folklore are determined to stop her. This was just as good as the first one, and definitely needs a sequel.
These books have been nominated for the Cybils award. These reviews reflect my opinion, not that of the Cybils committee.
Heather Kassner is a middle grade author I really need to get around to… I’ve still got The Bone Garden on my TBR. Have you read that one as well?
I thought I had, but it turns out I haven’t. I did enjoy the Forest of Stars, though.
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