Book Review | Small Spaces
Title: Small Spaces by Katherine Arden
Genres: Middle Grade, Horror
Bestselling adult author of The Bear and the Nightingale makes her middle grade debut with a creepy, spellbinding ghost story destined to become a classic.
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.
Oh my goodness, I loved this book so much! Going into Small Spaces, I expected to enjoy it, but I didn’t expect to love it. After seeing a couple people talking about Small Spaces on Bookstagram, I thought it looked like a fun and quick read for Halloween, so I decided to check it out from the library, not anticipating much other than something festive to get me into the Halloween mood. Once I started reading, however, I knew this book was going to be so much more!
Y’all I don’t even know where to begin! Small Spaces was one of the best books I’ve read in quite a while. I can pretty much guarantee that this book will be going on my Top Ten Books of 2018 list – it was that good! The first thing that stuck out to me was how absolutely gorgeous the writing for this novel is. From the very first page, I was hooked. This was my first book I’ve ever read by Katherine Arden, so going into this book, I didn’t know what to expect, but her writing completely blew me away!
Then there were the characters! The main girl, Ollie, was so well-written, emotionally complex, and her passion for books was 100% relatable to me. Then there were Coco and Brian. They’re your stereotypical, bullied girl and jock characters, yet written in a way that feels so authentic, if that even makes sense? The dynamics between the three of them together was so great, and I loved watching their friendships evolve throughout the book. I also have to add that Ollie’s dad was the sweetest and one of the best dads that I’ve read in a while.
The actual plot and story was so well done, too! Small Spaces was filled with just the perfect amount of creepiness. This is a middle grade book, so there’s nothing gross or over the top, but that doesn’t mean that it was watered down or not scary at all. This book creepy and spooky with a mysterious, autumnal atmosphere. It truly does make the perfect Halloween read.
Also, Small Spaces was surprisingly emotional. This book deals with grief and learning how to create a new normal in your life after the loss of a loved one. And it’s about learning to experience happiness and life again.
Overall, I absolutely adored Small Spaces. I never wanted to stop reading! It’s such a well-written book, filled so many life lessons and just the right amount of creepiness. I would recommend this book to anyone looking for an exciting and spooky book to read!