Thursday, November 12, 2020

The Undrowned

Alexander, K.R. The Undrowned
February 4th 2020 by Scholastic Paperbacks
Library Copy

Samantha and Rachel have been friends for a long time, but after Rachel betrays Samantha in a bit of typical tween drama, Samantha's behavior turns ugly. She makes Rachel give her lunch money and do her homework, and is outright mean. Samantha has issues at home; her parents fight and have high standards for her behavior, and she has to put up with her "perfect" sister Jessica. When Samantha sees Rachel out at the local lake, the two have an altercation that ends in Samantha pushing Rachel into the water... and she drowns. Since no one else is around, and because she really thinks Rachel deserves to die, Samantha goes home and doesn't tell anyone about what happened. The next day at school, Rachel appears. She willingly gives Samantha lunch money and acts as if everything is fine... but it's not. Rachel is trailed by water logged items, and makes odd things happen. Still, Samantha doesn't feel quite enough guilt to do anything about it. The instances escalate, with Samantha's food turning to sand and fish bones in her mouth, her sheets turning to seaweed, and a pervasive dampness following her everywhere. When a group of kids goes to the lake with the two girls, they encounter more persistent evil. Will Samantha be able to put things right and save herself and her community?
Strengths: My students love creepy, scary stories, and this one has a lot going for it. Murder, friend drama, gas lighting, sister problems, gross stuff, and more murder. Add a disturbing cover, and this book is guaranteed to be checked out immediately upon coming back to the library. This author's Scare Me, The Collector (and its sequel, The Collected), and The Fear Zone are worth investing in as well. How did I miss Bury Me? Just added it to my upcoming order. 
Weaknesses: Samantha is the single most unlikable book character I have ever met! She deserved everything she got. Even Rachel seemed meaner than she needed to be. More nuanced, sympathetic characters would have helped make this a stronger novel. 
What I really think: If K.R. Alexander's books were pizza, they would have a cardboardy, slightly undercooked crust but the most amazingly yummy four cheese toppings. Alexander has a great feel for cheesy, middle grade horror, and I bought this one without having read it, which I rarely do. Are the books great literature? No. Will the copies get read until they are worn out fragments? Absolutely! (And since my thirty year old R.L. Stine prebinds are starting to pong, I probably need to weed more of those. )

Ms. Yingling

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