After suffering a tragic loss, eleven-year-old Ollie only finds solace in books. So when she happens upon a crazed woman at the river threatening to throw a book into the water, Ollie doesn’t think–she just acts, stealing the book and running away. As she begins to read the slender volume, Ollie discovers a chilling story about a girl named Beth, the two brothers who both loved her, and a peculiar deal made with “the smiling man,” a sinister specter who grants your most tightly held wish, but only for the ultimate price.
Ollie is captivated by the tale until her school trip the next day to Smoke Hollow, a local farm with a haunting history all its own. There she stumbles upon the graves of the very people she’s been reading about. Could it be the story about the smiling man is true? Ollie doesn’t have too long to think about the answer to that. On the way home, the school bus breaks down, sending their teacher back to the farm for help. But the strange bus driver has some advice for the kids left behind in his care: “Best get moving. At nightfall they’ll come for the rest of you.” Nightfall is, indeed, fast descending when Ollie’s previously broken digital wristwatch, a keepsake reminder of better times, begins a startling countdown and delivers a terrifying message: RUN.
Only Ollie and two of her classmates heed the bus driver’s warning. As the trio head out into the woods–bordered by a field of scarecrows that seem to be watching them–the bus driver has just one final piece of advice for Ollie and her friends: “Avoid large places. Keep to small.”
And with that, a deliciously creepy and hair-raising adventure begins.
Praise for Small Spaces:
“Is it a mystery? A fairy tale? A horror thriller?
As the suspense gripped me, I just wanted to know one thing—
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT? Terrifying and fun.”
—R. L. Stine, author of the Goosebumps and Fear Street series
"Arden’s descriptions can often be delicious. . .
[she] has mastered the art of rising tension that delivers."
—School Library Journal
(Read full review)
“The perfect book to be read by firelight during a chilly autumn evening—though you might find yourself inching closer to the light as the story nears its terrifying conclusion. Katherine Arden is a gifted storyteller with a wicked imagination!”
—J. A. White, author of The Thickety series and Nightbooks
“This book scared the snot out of me. Fast-paced and spine-tinglingly delightful. I defy you to read the first two chapters without staying up the rest of the night to finish. You’ve been warned!”
—Jonathan Auxier New York Times bestselling author of The Night Gardener
★“Atmospheric horror at its best. Chillingly tender.”
—Kirkus, starred review
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★ “With a tantalizing pace and palpable suspense, all nicely grounded in realistic emotions, this well-wrought spine-tingler is destined to be a hit (just makes sure the lights stay on).”
—Booklist, starred review
“Arden…shrouds her Halloween-time story in autumnal mists,
introducing a…cast of ominous figures, from ghosts to shapeshifters
and scarecrow minions. Ollie is a relatable heroine who finds strength
through trusting in friendship, while her ghostly adventures lead her to
learn an important truth: sometimes, the best way to honor the memory of a
loved one is by moving forward, bravely, and with love.”
(Read full review)
"The novel’s menacing fantasy world of centuries-old ghosts and children being turned into scarecrows is provocative enough, but explicit references to Narnia, Wonderland, and Cerberus of Hades make for a smart and moving account of how stories may transport but grief and loss still take a lot from us.”