Thursday, September 30, 2021


I invested in a quantity of horror titles by Joel Sutherland, K.R. Alexander, and Lindsay Duga, and they are ALWAYS checked out, along with this author's Red Rover. Now, if we could just get some of these in hardcover rather than prebind, that would be great. 

Anybody else having a challenging year? I keep forgetting that we are still in the middle of a world wide pandemic. The students' behavior needs a lot of work. I am certified 7-12, so having to stand in the hallway between classes and say "Walking feet, please" is making me very cranky and snarky. Sometimes the library is too quiet and not busy enough for my liking, but sometimes I am replacing the toner cartridge in the printer and reimaging a student Chromebook while I am teaching a lesson on media literacy. Just that kind of year. 

Krovatin, Christopher. Darkness
September 21st 2021 by Scholastic Press
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Warning: This is a really hard title to review without spoiling, so I will try!

Alec is not happy that since his parents' divorce, he has had to leave "their clean white San Francisco apartment for this barnacle-covered sinkhole of a town" (from the E ARC, but sounds SO much like a middle schooler!), which is his perception of Founders Island. He has managed to make a friend in Hannah, and does sort of enjoy wandering around exploring, but it's still not "home". It doesn't help that there are very few people of color on the island, and Derek and his evil sidekick Checkmate give him a hard time about being Chinese. There are bigger problems, however, when the entire island is repeatedly plunged into a weird and creepy darkness. It's a darkness so dark that you can't see your hand in front of your face, electronics are on but not visible, and alarmingly strange, noisy, and mucus filled creatures roam. The times are somewhat regular, and apparently this has happened in the past; Hannah's 105 year old Big Gran remembers it from when she was very small, but there is no solution written in any histories. Alec starts to investigate, and finds out that Derek's family holds part of the secret as well, so he has to work with his nemesis, finding things out about both him and Checkmate in the process. The group does figure out most of what's going on, and it is connected to the history of the founding of the island, the original inhabitants, and to the very foundation of the island's existence. Will they be able to figure out how to avert the forces of evil before horrible things happen to the current residents... and before it's tourist season?
Strengths: Over the last twenty years, I have probably read close to 10,000 middle grade books, so it's hard to impress me with something new. This was innovative. Sure, it was based on the trope that if you're in middle school and you move, chances are good that you will both be bullied AND haunted, but Darkness really took this and ran with it. Also, it included one of my favorite lines of my summer reading (again, for the E ARC): "We need to come up with a better option than 'jack the baby up on soda pop' ". This was an exquisitely well constructed, complex, and scary title that my students will really like. 
Weaknesses: The cover looks like a rejected Lindsay Duga cover and really doesn't represent anything in the book itself. I'm starting to think that Scholastic secretly hates me, since all of the really good, creepy books are published in paperback only. There have been a lot recently, which is great, but in ten years I will have a bunch of yellowing, smelly prebinds that kids love and I won't be able to replace. Grrr. 
What I really think: Definitely purchasing, especially since this author's Red Rover was so deeply creepy that I bought three copies of it. Every year, there is a student who possesses an enormous Barnes and Noble compendium of Lovecraft's work (which comes in at 1,112 pages), and I'm never really convinced that the book actually gets read. Perhaps this would be a great choice to hand to those students who think that they are above my pedestrian, middle grade scary books, since Mr. Krovatin is also involved in some projects in adult publishing. 
Ms. Yingling

1 comment:

  1. Yes, I think most people are having challenging lives right now, but we appreciate all you are doing, Karen, both for the kiddos and the planet!