Poblocki, Dan. The Haunting of Gabriel Ashe
30 July 2013, Scholastic Press
E ARC from Netgalley.com
Gabe family moves in with his grandmother, a famous book illustrator, after a fire destroys the family home and his father’s puppet studio. Gabe is just as happy—he meets Seth, a neighbor, and has a great role playing game going in the woods. When school starts, he meets Mazzy and Felicia and gets accepted into a popular crowd, which is better than being taunted as “puppet boy” back home. Seth is no longer welcome in the group, although he once was, since his brother David’s disappearance. Soon, strange things start happening in the area. Children feel they are being stalked, a rocket is set off at a school bake sale, and Gabe starts to fear that the game he and Seth were playing has more serious ramifications. After consulting with his grandmother, he decides that they are in trouble. His grandmother had a friend, Mason, who went a bit off and now seems to be haunting the woods. Around Halloween, Mason starts stalking the boys so they continue to play his wicked “game”; Gabe’s small sister Miri is kidnapped and almost dies in a fire. The boys are eventually able to stop Mason but figure out the mystery of David, but only at a terrible cost.
Strengths: Poblocki always writes very good horror, and this dark tale, set in the cool dark of autumn in the woods near a small town, is ultra creepy. I loved that he referenced a former book, The Nightmarys, and dedicated the book to Gory and Bellairs!
Weaknesses: This got off to a bit of a slow start, which is unusual for Poblocki, and the role playing game was confusing at first. It made sense eventually, but I wouldn’t have lingered on it so long. I don’t know that I would put any of Poblocki’s books in an elementary library; a major character does die.