Whispering Pines

S. &S./Margaret K. McElderry Bks. Sept. 2020. 320p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781534460478.
Gr 4-8–Twelve-year-old Rae Carter arrives in Whispering Pines, CT, determined to appear normal. No asking people if they believe in aliens and no mention of her dad’s disappearance from a secret government lab. The fact that her neighbor Caden Price’s family are ghost hunters doesn’t help her, nor do the strange disappearances of children. Even worse, when children do reappear, their eyes are missing. After Rae’s new friend vanishes, Rae, Caden, and their friend Vivienne decide to investigate. Caden has his own experience with the supernatural; he accidentally trapped his magic-hungry brother Aiden in another dimension. Add in a suspicious green energy plant and the feeling that supernatural creatures dog their every step, and the result is a spooky story with mystery elements. The chapters alternate between Rae and Caden in third-person limited perspective. Both children are such underdog loners that readers will feel immediately sympathetic, especially as Rae and Caden’s families don’t seem to support them emotionally. The chilling preface where the eye-snatching demon hunts its prey, as well as other unusual settings, enhance the book’s dark tone. One might wish this series opener—ending on a cliffhanger—didn’t have quite so many different story threads, but perhaps they will be untangled in future installments.
VERDICT Like “Goosebumps,” but for an older audience, this book seems custom made for kids who like a good scare. A high appeal horror suitable for middle grade and tween readers. Recommended for most libraries.

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