Thursday, December 05, 2019

The Fear Zone

Alexander, K.R. The Fear Zone
September 3rd 2019 by Scholastic Inc.
Copy checked out from The Ohio Digital Library

It's Halloween, and several young people get a creepy message to meet in the cemetery at midnight. Four of them are friends; April hates clowns and Andres hates sharks. Kyle hates snakes (mainly because his abusive father raises them), and Deshaun hates ghosts. The other girl who shows up, Caroline, has a darker past than the others, and is mortally afraid of being buried alive. After the visit to the cemetery, when the kids all dug in the dirt around a marked grave, and Caroline finds a small box with a clown on it, all of the kids are afraid, not sleeping well, and starting to hallucinate any number of terrible things. Even though they tell themselves that bad dreams can't hurt them, they feel that there is something more sinister and menacing at play, and unless they can figure out what, it will spell doom for them all. Will they be strong enough to face up to their fears and put an end to the forces of evil they unleashed in the graveyard?
Strengths: This has a great feel for what middle grade readers want-- scary, R.L.Stine like plots with breathless, cliff-hanger chapter endings. This even plays with the text on the page, breaking up lines and creating an even more angsty feel. To an adult, the kids' fears about sharks, snakes, clowns, etc. seem a little silly, but the story is compelling. This author's The Collector has done well, but has a creepy doll, and some of my students will NOT read books with creepy dolls!
Weaknesses: A bit weak on WHY the evil spirits are released, but this isn't that essential.
What I really think: Every middle school librarian needs to buy at least two prebind copies to hand to students who have a hankering for Stephen King's It. It's not the same, but at least they'll have a mildly creepy read with a cover that will give their friends nightmares!

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