Published by Roaring Brook Press on March 22nd 2016
Genres: middle grade, fantasy
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The Shining meets "Hotel California" in this supremely creepy middle grade novel about the bizarre things that happen to two girls stranded at a desert inn.
Eleven-year-old Quinn has had some bad experiences lately. She was caught cheating in school, and then one day, her little sister Emma disappeared while walking home from school. She never returned
When Quinn's best friend Kara has to move away, she goes on one last trip with Kara and her family. They stop over at the first hotel they see, a Victorian inn that instantly gives Quinn the creeps, and she begins to notice strange things happening around them. When Kara's parents and then brother disappear without a trace, the girls are stranded in a hotel full of strange guests, hallways that twist back in on themselves, and a particularly nasty surprise lurking beneath the floorboards. Will the girls be able to solve the mystery of what happened to Kara's family before it's too late?
Before I officially get started on this review, there is something I have to mention: This book was not written for adults. None of the middle grade or young adult books I read are written for me, but this one was even MORE geared toward a younger reader. The writing was simple, and there was a lot of telling and less imagery which affected my reading experience. Still though, I have to rate accordingly, keeping even all that in mind.
And I’m going to review this with spoilers, even though the are not exactly hidden that well. So if you decide to read the review and the book is spoiled for you (I don’t know how it could be), then don’t blame me.
What we have here is a a story about death and dealing with death. The author tells it in a palatable and understandable way. The reader doesn’t know at first that this is a story about death, but it’s not exactly a surprise. I knew right away where this was going. Maybe for a younger reader it would be hidden, but anyone above the age of thirteen is going to figure it out.
So Kara, Quinn, and Josh are traveling out west where Kara is moving. Kara and Josh’s parents and the three of them stop at a train car diner, eat dinner, and then drive back out onto the highway. Then Quinn sees a white light heading towards them, but it disappears, and it seems like everything has gone back to normal. They keep driving into the desert, and they end up stopping at a hotel. The people there at weird, and the desk clerk is named Persephone. The door man’s name is Aides. If you haven’t figured out where this is going yet, I mean DUH. There’s also an elevator that goes up or down, but Kara, Quinn, and Josh are strangely unable to use this elevator, and though the pool is upstairs, they are told to take the stairs.
This is not to say that the book is not good or that the story is not told well, because it is. It’s just blatantly obvious. Kara’s parents disappear, and then so does her brother. The two girls, at this point, decide to try and escape the hotel–there’s a creepy guy chasing them, and they try to escape through the window since Aides blocks the door. This is where it got weird for me because they are attacked on a ledge by turkey vultures. This in itself wouldn’t be bad if Quinn didn’t decide to return to the hotel later because all of a sudden it’s supposedly this safe space. But she was attacked in the pool by something she couldn’t see, plus the vultures and the creepy guy. And all of the employees were acting really weird and fake. So which is it? Is it a safe place or not? It just didn’t add up for me.
Keep in mind that I am not sharing with you the last 25%-ish of the book because I don’t feel it’s necessary. I just have a hard time understand what the point of this book was. The very last major plot point was a surprise for me, as I did not see that coming, but I should have. Though I would have appreciated if the author had kept going in the direction she was going. I mean, if death is not supposed to be scary like this book seems to tell it, then why not follow all the way through? I know this is a book for kids, but story arc still matters to me.
I am sure lots of librarians are going to be reading this, reviewing it, and adding it to their collections. It’s a decent story for kids and I appreciate what it was trying to do. It’s starting to get starred reviews now, and I find that a bit much, because I have read MUCH better middle grade books. Yeah, it’s about death, and yeah, it tells it in a really inventive way, but I feel like this has been done before. Also, based on the blurb, this book was a bit of a letdown. It sounds like a creepy fantasy novel set in a an eerie hotel. But that’s not what it is at all.
So when I put it all together, this one is getting 3 stars from me. I really want to give it a 2.5 but I feel that is a bit unfair because it’s written for children. I thought this would be an upper middle grade and it’s not. That’s not the book’s fault so I’ll be a little more lenient.
I wouldn’t recommend this unless you are in the age range of 8-12 which is who this book is written for. It’s just not satisfying.