A little belated as the new job has knocked me for a loop, but today I am delighted to be joining The Write Reads blog tour for Dread Wood by Jennifer Killick a middle-grade horror that was a pleasure to read.
Please do check out the rest of the tour, as well as this wonderful book.
Disclaimer – I received a copy in exchange for an honest review, all thoughts are my own.
Turn the lights on. Lock the door. Things are about to get SERIOUSLY SCARY!
The brand new must-read middle-grade novel from the author of super-spooky Crater Lake. Perfect for 9+ fans of R.L.Stine’s Goosebumps
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…
I was a child who grew up on the Goosebumps books and television show and adored it, and there’s been an itch to revisit them lately which might be why this one appealed to me so much. I can certainly see the grounds for the comparison with R.L. Stine’s work, the vibes are there. But, at the same time, I would argue that clinging to that comparison would be to do Dread Wood a disservice because this book has a depth – particularly to the characters, and how their backgrounds and lives are brought into their personalities and actions, that was lacking from those older books. For me, personally, Dread Wood just had a more layered approach to everything and it worked really well, without losing that vibe.
Dread Wood is wonderfully creepy (and I could see it inching closer to scary- terror if I had been younger, and honestly this is a book I would have been obsessed with as a kid), and the atmosphere just builds and builds, particularly in the latter half of the book. However, I think it works so well because it doesn’t rely solely on that atmosphere, instead blending in action, adventure and a good dose of mystery, as well as some wonderful humour. I am generally hit and miss on humour regardless of what medium I encounter it, but Killick balanced it marvellously here, and I particularly liked that it treads that line of the kind of humour kids the same age as our four main characters would have. It was a lovely touch, and just helped bring everything together. And, I think that was my takeaway from Dread Wood, there were a few bits here and there that didn’t one hundred per cent work for me, perhaps because I am older than the target reader and able to guess what was happening, but the whole of this book is so entertaining and addictive – this is a book that hooks you in and the pace and atmosphere keeps you there – that those little bits were easily moved past.
As mentioned above the characters were a stand out for me, and really made the book. I’m always a fan of seemingly mis-matched groups coming together and becoming friends, and I loved how Killick not only brought them together but had them playing off one another. The development of the friendship between them felt very natural and age-appropriate, especially with the time that passed, and the situation they found themselves facing. I also liked that the author took the time to explore more about the main four in particular. Sure, we see some of the ‘stereotypes’ that you might expect with school kids, but here we are given reasons for why they are like they are and that adds so much to their interactions and development. It also adds another dimension to the book as a whole, as it touches on various issues such as poverty, family expectations and disability; and for me personally, that is certainly something I would have loved to have seen more of in the books I was reading at that age, so it was a pleasure to see them here and done well.
Aside from a few personal nitpicks that were largely overshadowed by the whole, this is a fantastic middle-grade read, that will appeal to readers of all ages – yes you might see some of the twists and plot coming as an adult, but it certainly didn’t detract from the atmosphere or my enjoyment. Just, maybe not for anyone who severely fears or dislikes spiders ( Although saying that I don’t like them, I will run away from big ones – but I still had a great time reading this one!). And I am very much looking forward to the next book.
Jennifer Killick is the author of Crater Lake, the Alex Sparrow series, and middle-grade sci-fi adventure Mo, Lottie and the Junkers. She regularly visits schools and festivals, and her books have three times been selected for The Reading Agency’s Summer Reading Challenge. She lives in Uxbridge, in a house full of children, animals and Lego. When she isn’t busy mothering or step-mothering (which isn’t often) she loves to read, write and run, as fast as she can.
If you’ve read it, or read it in the future, please feel free to shout at me about this fantastic book.