REVIEW: Small Spaces (Small Spaces #1) by Katherine Arden

Title: Small Spaces
Small Spaces
Katherine Arden
Publication Date: 
September 25, 2018
Personal Collection
Middle Grade
Pages: 218
Add It:Goodreads
Rating: 4 Stars!

New York Times bestselling adult author of The Bear and the Nightingale makes her middle grade debut with a creepy, spellbinding ghost story destined to become a classic

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.


Back when I was in middle school, I spent my nights buried under the covers, a flashlight held in one hand, and a scary book held in the other (this is long before the invention of the kindle, and we had to get creative when we were supposed to be asleep!). I read late into the night with authors like RL Stine, Christopher Pike, and any other author that wrote for Point Horror. I’ve never been a fan of scary movies, but a terrifying book has always intrigued me. Now a days, I don’t see as many scary books aimed at our young readers. The days of Fear Street and Goosebumps seem to be behind us, but authors like Katherine Arden are introducing a whole new generation to late night scares.

Small Spaces is about a young girl named Ollie who has lost her mother in the past year. She’s struggled with her life since then, burying herself in books, and completely separating herself from anything that made her happy in the past. She’s alienated her friends, and doesn’t talk to anyone at school, coming off as a loner. One day when she ventures to her happy place, she finds a strange woman trying to destroy a book in the river. Before she even knows what happened, she’s stolen the book and rushed home. Little did she know that the book was going to change everything she knew about her small town, and her life as she currently lives it.

I absolutely ADORED Ollie, and her small group of classmates who turn into her best friends. This book was chilling, but taught some good life lessons at the same time. I was hooked from page one, and finished the book in nearly one setting, immediately ordering the sequel. I cannot wait until my kids are a little older and I can share Small Spaces with them.

About the Author

Born in Austin, Texas, Katherine Arden spent a year of high school in Rennes, France. Following her acceptance to Middlebury College in Vermont, she deferred enrollment for a year in order to live and study in Moscow. At Middlebury, she specialized in French and Russian literature. After receiving her BA, she moved to Maui, Hawaii, working every kind of odd job imaginable, from grant writing and making crepes to guiding horse trips. Currently, she lives in Vermont, but really, you never know.

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