Holy scary Sunday. This book took me right back to reading spooky books shut in my closet to keep the scary elements at bay. This is the third book in the series of four and absolutely my favorite so far.
Having met and outsmarted the smiling man in Dead Voices but fearful of when he’ll come again, Ollie, Brian, and Coco are anxiously searching for a way to defeat him once and for all. By staying together and avoiding remote places, they’ve steered clear of him so far but their constant worry and stress is taking a toll on their lives and friendship. So when Ollie’s dad and Coco’s mom plan a “fun” boat trip on Lake Champlain, the three are apprehensive to say the least. They haven’t had the best of luck on their recent trips and even worse their frenemy Phil is on the boat as well. But when a lake monster destroys their boat, they end up shipwrecked on a deserted island. This isn’t just any island though. It’s hidden from the outside world in a fog and unless everyone works together to find a way to escape, they won’t survive long. from Goodreads.
This is the third book in the Small Spaces series by Katherine Arden and, holy moly, was it good. The first book, Small Spaces was excellent, set in the fall, and had all the creepy seasonal elements required of a great Halloween story. I read it soon after it debuted in 2018 and I still say “Keep to small spaces,” vaguely and to myself when I am worried about something. That book was excellent and I have brought it up again and again and again here on Silver Button Books. The first book is also from Olivia’s point of view.
The second in the series was Dead Voices and I made a rookie series mistake reading this book – I did not take even a few minutes to review the characters. You just can’t wait a whole year and expect to remember everything! I wasted a ton of energy trying to figure out who was who when I could have been basking in the thrill of the winter setting. Dead Voices features Coco, Ollie (short for Olivia which I got stuck on because I didn’t remember a second boy from the first book because there wasn’t one!), and Brian.
Dark Waters is set in the Spring and is voiced mainly by Brian. Brian is still struggling with the feeling that he should have, could have, done more in the prior frightening encounters with the smiling man. Not to mention, his parents have noticed the change in him and want him to spend more time apart from Ollie and Coco – the only people who truly understand what he is going through. When the trio take the opportunity to get away, the re-introduction of Phil brings into stark relief exactly how small Brian’s world has become. But through the mist is another problem and Brian, Ollie and Coco will have to solve it if they hope to save everyone else on the boat.
Katherine Arden’s suspense was at an all time high for me in this book. I love that the books are all released in the season the characters are experiencing. It makes the tension feel so SO real. And, since I live right off Lake Michigan this whole setting creeped me out in the best way possible. The addition of Coco and Ollie’s parental units was a great opportunity for the kids to figure out if they could trust the adults in their lives – always a point I check with middle grade books. And, I didn’t think I would like Phil but I ended up really loving his part in this story.
There are magical scares and spooky things and a plethora of common fears at play in this story that all worked perfectly for me. One thing that didn’t was the fifty pages at the end of the book that are selections of the first two books. A cliffhanger I can take but don’t rob me fifty pages of joy!
Even at 200 pages Arden managed to thrill me so completely. I cannot wait for the fourth and final book to come out so I can re-read the whole series.
Tell me, please! Where is your favorite place to read a scary story?