Key, Watt. Terror at Bottle Creek
January 5th 2016 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
E ARC from Netgalley.com
Cort and his father work giving tours along the river in Alabama, and they live in a house boat. Cort's mother has moved out, and his father is finding it difficult to come to terms with that fact. When a big storm is approaching, Cort heads over to a neighbor's house to hang out with his friend Liza and her young sister Francie. Times are tough for the girls' family as well, since their father has died and their mother is trying to make ends meet by running boat docks. Cort's father takes off to help his ex-wife, and Liza's mother is out as well, and that's when the hurricane hits. Cort has boarded up the windows and the house is fiarly secure, but Francie runs off with Cort's dog and ends up on the house boat, which gets dragged away in the current. Liza and Cort take off after her, and all three are plummeted into the storm. Eventually, they end up on a ridge... but so do wild boars, bears, and snakes. They tie themselves up in a tree and drink water off of leaves, but when Liza gets bitten by a snake and no help seems to be forthcoming, Cort makes the harrowing trip back to try to find help. Can he find someone before it is too late both for him and the girls?
Key is a brilliant writer-- his Fourmile remains a favorite of my 8th grade boys, and even though I normally don't like books set in the south, this was brilliant. This is a very scary survival story set in an environment where not many survival stories are set (exceot Hiassen's Skink and Spradlin's Menance from the Deep, but those are both very different types of stories).
My favorite part of it might be the following quote, however, because it points out why students like scary books so much-- they are a good way to deflect attention to the real life problems that they face, in the way that Cort is afraid of ending up like his father: "What do women really want? They want a nice house and money and friends. They want men who wear suits and drive new cars. What they don't want is houseboats and smelly men who hunt and fish for a living. Who have dogs named Catfish. I don't want to be this. I won't be this. "
Wow. Quite the bomb to throw into a story about being trapped in a tree with poisonous snakes hanging all around. Definitely purchasing!
Stratton, Allan. The Dogs.
September 2nd 2015 by Sourcebooks Fire
Cameron and his mother have been on the move ever since his mother left his abusive father. She is very worried that he is following them, and any time she feels uncomfortable, they move. Their latest stopping place is a rental house on the outskirts of town. The neighbor, Mr. Sinclair, seems really creepy, and the realtor, Ken, seems to like the company of Cameron's mother too much. School isn't easy, either, with bully Cody giving him a hard time and his only friend, Benji, smelling a bit too much like the pig farm. The biggest problem, though, is that the farmhouse seems haunted, and Cameron hears and sees the ghost of Jacky in the house. This spurs him to investigate the former owners of the house, some of whom, including Jacky, disappeared under mysterious circumstances. The titular "dogs" refer to the dogs bought by Jacky's father that ended up killing him. After running into problem after problem at school, and no one believing him that Jacky's family might have come to grief, Cameron calls his father, which turns out to be a very bad idea. There are a lot of twists and turns in this that I don't want to ruin, but rest assured, it's a fairly creepy murder mystery/ghost story!
Strengths: There's a lot of interesting parallelism in this, good twists, supportive adults to try to help Cameron even though they don't get it quite right at first, and a great, spooky cover. I would think that I knew what would happen next, but then the story would veer in another direction. Very nice.
Weaknesses: I have a bad feeling that the "hard cover" through Baker and Taylor is actually paper-over-boards. There is just no keeping that format in any kind of decent shape in a school library.
What I really think: Don't know how I missed this one, but I'll definitely be purchasing it for the fall!