Wallace, Rich. Wicked Cruel.
August 6th 2013
by Knopf Books for Young Readers
These three short stories are set in the New England town of Cheshire Notch. The first, "Wicked Cruel", details the experiences of a boy who thinks he sees a former annoying classmate in a music video-- but that classmate has passed away from brain injuries, most likely caused by repeated beatings received at the hands of the boy and his classmates. Is the boy really dead? Is he really haunting Jordan? The next, "The Horses of Brickyard Pond", covers Halloween night and follows Danny and Claudine as the attend city parties but also a poetry reading their father gives. Janelle decides to go to this reading with Danny, which angers another boy. Will the mythical ghost horses save Danny... or destroy him? In the last, "Rites of Passage", Owen decides to attend a tea and dance at the local Chase Tavern. He meets Sophie there, but also the ghost of a girl long thought dead. Why does she still haunt the tavern? Will Owen come to grief through his contact with her?
Strengths: Very nice descriptions of life in a small New England town; very creepy and atmospheric! Enough suspense to make this pleasantly creepy. Wallace can turn his hand to anything and have it come out well, I think. He has a good feel for what middle graders like.
Weaknesses: I almost would have liked this better if the stories were more interwoven and all of them happened to the same main character. There could have been more suspense built that way.