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.”
This book follows our main character Ollie as she goes on a school trip to a farm but on their way back the bus brakes down and all sorts of weird things start to happen.
I enjoyed this book, it’s a pretty good children/middle-grade book. With a lot of action-packed into only 200 odd pages.
We do see some character development from Ollie, as she starts to let her friends Brian and Coco in. To me, it felt like a lot of progress that she actually called them friends, and it was really nice to see that she was wrong in judging them without knowing them. And she acknowledged that fact as well.
I was really happy to see how much Ollie started to let her dad in as well, it seemed like after her mother died they both shut down a bit but their walls started to come down again, and Ollie knew that her mother would always be with her.