Friday, November 08, 2019
Small Spaces and Dead Voices by Katherine Arden
I'm going to keep this as short as I can, but I decided to delay my Fiona Friday post by a few hours to squeeze in a final (double) review because I loved the books so much. Last week, I posted a photo of Dead Voices by Katherine Arden. The publicist said no review was necessary but I laughed inside because the entire reason I'm here is to read and talk about books. Of course I was going to read and review the book! However, as I was reading Dead Voices, it became apparent that there was a previous book and Dead Voices was giving away spoilers from the first. I loved Dead Voices and I didn't care about the spoilers, so I went ahead and ordered a copy of the first book, Small Spaces.
Small Spaces is Ollie's story. Ollie (short for Olivia) lost her mother, last year and has nightmares. She's tired of people looking at her with sympathy on their faces and just wants to get back to normal. Her mother was an adventurer and Ollie still loves the outdoors. She can throw a rock with tremendous accuracy, she's great at chess and she's an avid reader. So, when Ollie sees a woman dangling a book over a body of water, about to drop it, Ollie snatches the book away and hurries home with it.
The book tells a story of horror and when Ollie's class goes to a farm for a school outing, Ollie slowly begins to recognize bits of the story — familiar names, a similar mist in the area. When the bus breaks down and night begins to fall, the bus driver tells her to run and so does her mother's broken watch. Ollie listens. Coco, a new girl who is clumsy, bullied, and quick to tears follows along and so does Brian, a hockey player and popular guy who is surprisingly cheerful. Then, the watch says "HIDE". When the scarecrows come to life around them, are they in danger? And, when they see their classmates being marched off into a field, what should they do?
Highly recommended - Ohmygosh, what a terrifying book. I loved everything about Small Spaces. Because I had already read Dead Voices and was familiar with the children, the beginning was a little awkward for me, waiting for them to get to know each other, but the fact that I'd read the second book first didn't really cause as much trouble as I expected. Still, they really need to be read in order because the Bad Guy of the first book shows up in the second and they refer back to the adventure and horror of Small Spaces. Absolutely edge-of-your-seat, spine-tingling, holding-your-breath reading.
Dead Voices is, of course, the follow-up book to Small Spaces but now Ollie, Coco, and Brian are bonded because of their experience at the farm in Small Spaces. This time, they're headed to a ski resort that has just recently opened on the site of a former school. Ollie's dad and Coco's mom are in the front seat, the kids in the back, and they're driving in a snow storm. Coco is particularly nervous about the snow but Ollie's dad is a cheerful guy and he isn't worried.
On the way to the ski resort, Coco sees a man in a ski suit holding up his hand, as if to tell them to stop. Later on, she'll find out his story. At the ski resort, everything goes wrong. The power goes off, the gas stops, the generator doesn't work, and the ghost of a girl who died in a closet is haunting the children. Even worse, the ghost of the woman who locked her into the closet is still lurking. When the Smiling Man (the bad guy from Small Spaces) shows up and traps Ollie behind a mirror, then the other children are separated, will they be able to find each other and work together to escape the Smiling Man's trap?
Highly recommended - Again, this is a seriously scary book. Apart from the fact that the children are middle schoolers, it's hard to believe that this is a middle grade book because it's so intense. There's an added complication that gives the book some of the emotion of the first book: Ollie's dad and Coco's mom are getting a little giggly and sweet together.
In both books, Ollie's dad is a terrific character who provides some light moments and the children save themselves, although I tended to think of Dead Voices as Coco's story. Each book seems to focus on one child just a little more than the other two. I hope this means Brian is getting a book because I would definitely love to read a third book with Ollie, Coco, and Brian figuring their way out of a terrifying puzzle.
Side note: I took Small Spaces to my physical therapy appointment, yesterday, and my therapist (the one to whom I introduced Joe Hill) exclaimed with glee when he saw my copy of Small Spaces. He just bought a copy of Small Spaces and is planning to read it next. He didn't know there was a follow-up book, so he's excited about that. Of course, I was planning to recommend the series to him. I know that guy's reading taste pretty well after a couple years of talking books while he works on my neck.
I would not limit the reading of these books to middle schoolers. Young adults and older adults who like a creepy book will appreciate them just as much. They were terrific for fall reading and I may pull them out again for next year's RIP challenge.
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