A truly splendid amalgamation of mystery, magic and creeping horror will spellbind the middle-grade set.
Jack has lived much of his life feeling invisible, beneath the notice of bullies, friends or even his family. Yet when his parents divorce and he's sent to live with his aunt and uncle in Hazelwood, Iowa, Jack is shocked to discover that everyone in the town notices him. What's more, some of them seem to want to kill him. As he befriends some of the local kids, Jack reluctantly looks into the town's past and unravels the mystery behind why children have been disappearing there for decades and what his connection may be. This children's debut beautifully evokes the feeling of otherness kids come to feel around their peers and at the same time creates an entirely original mythology. The mystery deepens with each chapter, revealing exactly the right amount with each step. Answers are doled out so meticulously that readers will be continually intrigued rather than frustrated. The result is the ultimate page-turner.
An enticing read that is certain to keep both the hero and audience guessing at every carefully plotted reveal. (Fantasy. 9-12)Copyright Kirkus 2011 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.
In her first novel, children's nonfiction author Barnhill quickly establishes a sense of foreboding in the town of Hazelwood, Iowa, as Jack--ignored by and invisible to his parents, who are divorcing--moves in with his eccentric aunt and uncle, whose house appears to be possessed. Slowly, Jack befriends some locals, including 14-year-old twins Wendy and Frankie, the latter scarred and silent years after a childhood disappearance, and the eerily psychic Anders. Jack also becomes the focus of a town bully and an evil patriarch who cultivates power through magic; tension mounts as Jack provokes the supernatural forces that cause children and buildings to disappear. Suspense builds steadily, with twists and surprises woven throughout, and friendship emerges as a powerful theme. "Given that he didn't really know what it was like to have friends, Jack didn't realize until that very moment that he missed Wendy and that he had been very lonely for the last few days." Barnhill explores the struggle between good and evil and the power of love and sacrifice, creating a provocative and highly original mystery. Ages 8-12. (Aug.)[Page ]. Copyright 2010 PWxyz LLC
Gr 5-8--Bullies and distracted, disinterested parents have left Jack with zero self-esteem when he arrives in the mysterious town of Hazelwood, IA. His mother coldly and unceremoniously dumps him off to spend the summer with his quirky aunt and uncle, Mabel and Clive Fitzpatrick. Barnhill's practiced use of personification signals readers that the Fitzpatricks' house and other inanimate objects are strangely alive. While Jack doesn't recollect having been there before, he has bouts of remembering, not quite déjÃ vu, and things seem eerily familiar in this spooky town where kids go missing and folks just seem to forget they existed. There's plenty of foreshadowing to alert readers to the scariness ahead as Jack makes friends, develops self-confidence, embarks on the age-old battle of good versus evil and, in the end, finds the place, albeit a strange one, where he belongs.--Patricia N. McClune, Conestoga Valley High School, Lancaster, PA[Page 144]. (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.