Thursday, February 14, 2019

Watch Hollow

Funaro, Gregory. Watch Hollow
February 12th 2019 by HarperCollins
ARC provided by Young Adult Books Central

Lucy and Oliver Tinker's father repairs clocks for a living, but the business isn't doing well. After the death of their mother from cancer, the family moves into an apartment attached to the business and is struggling to make ends meet, to the point where school mates taunt the pair about being on food stamps. When the mysterious Mr. Quigley shows up and offers Mr. Tinker a large sum of money to fix a clock that is built into a house, Watch Hollow, that he has inherited, the family packs up and moves to the wilds of Rhode Island for the summer to complete this task. Of course, the house is big, spooky, and decrepit, and has interesting quirks, like wooden animals. Oliver meets Teddy, the son of the former clock repairman who was unable to fix it, and Lucy finds out that the wooden animals come to life at midnight! It turns out that the clock, which somehow powers the house, feeds off of the power of the Shadow Wood, but evil is lurking there in the form of The Gar, which is trying to get into the house. The Shadow Wood is encroaching on the house and feeding off the fear of the animals and the children, and can only be repelled by Sun Stone and love. While the father and Oliver try various repairs, Lucy tries to figure out how the animals can help save the clock and the house. The ending reveals surprising villains and leaves the door open for a sequel.

Watch Hollow is a deliciously spooky setting, and the clock with places for wooden animals is fresh and interesting. Who wouldn't want to befriend a wooden dog named Torsten that comes alive at night? The world building is especially solid in this novel, complete with creepy historical back story of original owners of the house and a complex but sensible reason for how the clock is powered. One fun use of the shadow wood was that the acorns from the trees helped clear up Oliver's acne!

Lucy and Oliver don't actually hang out with each other at the beginning of the book, which I thought was especially realistic. Oliver is busy with Teddy and helping his father, and Lucy is more interested in investigating the animals and the original owners. They both learn a lot about the house, but it doesn't make much sense until the communicate and share what they know. It's a good thing they do, because The Gar and his minions are NOT fooling around and want to take over the house. If the children weren't there to stop them, who knows how widely the evil would spread!

This is slightly reminiscent (how could it not be?) of the newly popular Bellairs' The House with a Clock in Its Walls, and will be popular with readers who like spooky tales like Oh's Spirit Hunters, Currie's The Peculiar Incident on Shady Street or Schwab's City of Ghosts.

I could have done without the death of the mother, the bullying before the children moved, and the premise that love could save the children. The first two are just tropes that have been tremendously overused, and the third is just personal distaste. I wouldn't count on love for anything more serious than tying my shoes. And even that is a bit foolish-- well tied shoes are important.

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