Turn the lights out. Lock the door. Things are about to get SERIOUSLY SCARY!
It’s basically the worst school detention ever. When classmates (but not mate-mates) Hallie, Angelo, Gustav and Naira are forced to come to school on a SATURDAY, they think things can’t get much worse. But they’re wrong. Things are about to get seriously scary.
What has dragged their teacher underground? Why do the creepy caretakers keeping humming the tune to Itsy Bitsy Spider? And what horrors lurk in the shadows, getting stronger and meaner every minute . . .? Cut off from help and in danger each time they touch the ground, the gang’s only hope is to work together. But it’s no coincidence that they’re all there on detention. Someone has been watching and plotting and is out for revenge . . .
Since entering the sunny uplands of (ostensible) adulthood, I haven’t read either a ton of Middle Grade fiction or a great deal of horror. Which is somewhat surprising because, when I was kid, I loved scaring myself witless with a good Goosebumps book and, as a teenager, Point Horror books were my jam. Reading Dread Wood, Jennifer Killick’s latest Middle Grade horror novel, brought these tween and teenage scares crashing straight through my pretence at adulthood and reminded me that, no matter how old you are, there’s nothing like things that go bump in the night (or, in this case, go skittering around in the dark) for keeping the pages turning!
The last thing Angelo, Naira, Gus, and Hallie want to be doing on a Saturday morning is spending time with their oh-so-cheery teacher Mr Canton at a ‘back on track’ detention. But given that they all played a part in the great Dread Wood cafeteria riot, they don’t have much of a choice. When their teacher is apparently ‘eaten’ by a hole in the ground, however, it soon becomes apparent that this detention just might turn out to be deadly. Before long, the quartet are forced to become unlikely allies as they confront creepy caretakers, secret passageways, and subterranean horrors.
I was drawn into Dread Wood within just a few pages thanks to Jennifer Killick’s perfect balance between sinister foreboding, creepy mystery, and genuinely witty humour. The sparky dialogue and verbal quips exchanged between Angelo, Naira, Gus, and Hallie had me laughing out loud at many points, as did the attempts of their hapless teacher, Mr Canton, to be ‘down with the kids’. Combined with the development of a genuine friendship between the unlikely quartet, the jokes helped to take the edge off what is otherwise a genuinely creepy story of ‘monster’ proportions.
Without giving too much away (and nothing that can’t be inferred from a close examination of the cover), Dread Wood offers plentiful scares of the eight-legged variety. However, as a self-confessed arachnophobe, I can testify to Dread Wood‘s horror elements providing a healthy dose of scares without too much accompanying trauma. In fact, I learnt a number of very interesting facts about my eight-legged nemeses and came out of the book with a newfound and healthy respect for such remarkable creatures (albeit not a respect that extends to allowing them to live in my house).
Erring on the side of gripping and creepy rather than outright horror, Dread Wood has plenty of twists and turns – as well as lots of cliff-hanger chapter endings – to keep up the pace whilst the ending, although both reassuring and rewarding, hints at further adventures to come for Angelo and Co.
Offsetting the scares with a good dose of humour, this lively story of one very deadly detention is packed full of unlikely friendship and formidable foes. Offering a page-turning plot that doesn’t shy away from the scares, Dread Wood is a perfect read for 9-12 year olds looking for a fun but creepy mystery – or big kids looking to re-live those Goosebumps vibes!
If you can, please support a local indie bookshop by ordering from them either in person or online! Some of my favourites include Booka Bookshop, The Big Green Bookshop, Sam Read Booksellers, Book-ish, Scarthin Books, and Berts Books.
My thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy of the book in return for an honest and unbiased review and to The Write Reads for organising and inviting me onto this blog tour. The tour continues until 20th April 2022 so please do check out the other stops for more reviews and content!
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