Caught Dead

S. & S. (Bite Risk: Bk. 2). Aug. 2024. 320p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781665938037.
Gr 5 Up–In Wills’s sequel to Bite Risk, teenage Sel is trying to convince the world that werewolves are harmless as his fuzzy community is thrust into the limelight. However, when the sudden appearance of what seems to be a new, more dangerous werewolf threatens everything he has accomplished, Sel and his friends must work quickly to uncover a web of secrets before the damage is too great. Wills once again delivers suspenseful horror with fast pacing and a quippy, wry tone. The protagonist tweens are fun and distinctive, although two (Sel and Mika) get much more page time than the others. Mika, in particular, shines brightly. Written with sensitivity, Mika has a hip condition that limits her mobility, and although her condition is not the sum of her characterization, her skills and struggles are uniquely compelling. Otherwise, the book is not especially deep. Most of the adult characters are pretty thin and there’s no larger theme beyond some light messaging about how easily social media can be manipulated and the dangers of prejudice (against werewolves). But with a story this fun, who cares? This book is all about twists, turns, action sequences, and cliff-hangers. Writing horror for the tween set can be a challenging act of balancing thrills without causing nightmares, and this book fills that niche with flair to spare.
VERDICT The literary equivalent of a summer blockbuster, this spine-tingling creature feature is just right for middle grade readers.

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