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Small Spaces

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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, stealin 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.


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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, stealin 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.

30 review for Small Spaces

  1. 4 out of 5

    Melanie

    ARC given to me by a confirmed angel, Lilly at Lair of Books, which I will cherish and love forever! “You might get to know characters in books, Ollie thought, but getting to know a human was an entirely different thing.” Small Spaces is Katherine Arden’s debut middle grade novel and I loved it so very much friends. Many of you know that The Bear and the Nightingale is one of my favorite books of all-time, and even though these stories are nothing like one another, the beautiful writing, amazi ARC given to me by a confirmed angel, Lilly at Lair of Books, which I will cherish and love forever! “You might get to know characters in books, Ollie thought, but getting to know a human was an entirely different thing.” Small Spaces is Katherine Arden’s debut middle grade novel and I loved it so very much friends. Many of you know that The Bear and the Nightingale is one of my favorite books of all-time, and even though these stories are nothing like one another, the beautiful writing, amazing characters, and important themes shine through. I went into this expecting a fun and spooky read (which it was), but what I also got was such a beautiful love letter to grief, depression, and trying to live in a world that has taken away someone who you feel you cannot live without. In a small town in Vermont, our main character is riding her bike home from school one fall afternoon, when she notices a woman attempting to throw an old book in the water. Ollie, being the book lover that she is, feels obliged to stop and see what’s going on. ➽ Olivia Adler - But she mostly goes by Ollie. A twelve-year-old, sixth grader, who loves to read and is trying to live her life while grieving a terrible loss. And the only way she truly knows how to cope is the escapism of books. (Also, there is a brief mention of her mom having brown skin, but I am not 100% sure of Ollie’s race.) ➽ Coco Zintner - The tiniest child in Ollie’s class. She has a somewhat famous mother and has recently moved to the school. But her innocence and eccentricities constantly make her a target for bullying. ➽ Brian Battersby - Jamaican and your typical middle school jock, who Ollie has known her entire life. And Ollie learns very quickly that you should not stereotype people, because they might surprise you. And their paths truly cross unexpectedly once Olivia begins to read the book that was almost abandoned. She learns of a farm, and a girl, and two brothers, and a missing persons case that was never solved. And now Ollie and her friends are going on a field trip to a farm that is very reminiscent of the story she has been reading about. And yes, friends, this is a spooky book. I mean, it’s nothing too scary or too much, but Katherine Arden for sure paints an eerie atmosphere and some extremely creepy monster like characters. And I truly think this will make the perfect Halloween read this year, for so many ages, but this book was also so much more than that. This is a book about healing and friendship and learning to let go while simultaneously never letting go. This book is about escapism through books and how books carry some of the most powerful healing magic imaginable. And this is a book about healing at your own pace and in your own time. “Maybe, she kept thinking, when she came back from one of those other worlds, when she woke up from book dreaming, she would come back to a world where […] wasn’t dead.” Ollie is really dealing with some very serious depression and grief throughout this book. Like how we give up things that make us happy, just because those things remind you of the person who made you happiest. How sometimes the world feels too heavy, too loud, too empty, all because it’s missing someone who was your entire world. Yet, this is also a love letter to how the ones we lose will never truly be lost; they will always remain with us. Always. Overall, I loved this book more than words. I wasn’t expecting it to make me feel everything that it did, and when I closed the book it truly felt like a cathartic experience. I recommend this book to any and every person, but especially during the autumnal season. I read this in a single sitting, I never once wanted to put it down, and I fell so deeply in love with it. Blog | Instagram | Twitter | Tumblr | Youtube | Twitch The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication. Content and trigger warnings for minor bullying, loss of a loved one, grief depiction, and depression depiction.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Hannah

    I would read Katherine Arden's shopping list if she published it.

  3. 5 out of 5

    شيماء ✨

    so this is a ghost story about someone who pretty much got fucked over because they saved a book from being thrown into the water. can you imagine being a stack of dead tree and having this much power??

  4. 4 out of 5

    Betsy

    In fourth grade I sold my soul to the Scholastic Book Club’s Apple paperbacks. There was only one thing in the entire world I ever wanted to read, at that point. Only one thing that could make my little heart go pitter-pat, and that was the comforting presence of ghost stories. This was long before Bob Stine decided to slap an “R.L.” in front of his last name and stake a claim in the world of G-rated horror fare. But it was also long after John Bellairs made it his business to truck in the middl In fourth grade I sold my soul to the Scholastic Book Club’s Apple paperbacks. There was only one thing in the entire world I ever wanted to read, at that point. Only one thing that could make my little heart go pitter-pat, and that was the comforting presence of ghost stories. This was long before Bob Stine decided to slap an “R.L.” in front of his last name and stake a claim in the world of G-rated horror fare. But it was also long after John Bellairs made it his business to truck in the middle grade supernatural. The Apple paperbacks had titles like Ghost Cat, and Wait Till Helen Comes, and The Dollhouse Murders. They were written by folks like Betty Ren Wright and Willo Davis Roberts and Mary Down Hahn, and I loved them dearly. I wanted to be scared, but in the safest way imaginable. I remember distinctly picking up some rando Alfred Hitchcock story collection for kids and reading the warning that it would be the scariest thing I ever encountered, only to return it to the library without going any further. Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark worked for me, if only because the stories themselves were just lame urban legends, while the art by Stephen Gammell was synthesized, purified nightmare fuel, perfect for sleepovers. All this is to say that I like to think I know my way around a scary book for the 9-12 year old set. It’s been a long time since I’ve found something that really made me nostalgic for those days of yore. Then I read a book that’s going to be absolutely perfect for those kids that loved Stranger Things and want something in the children’s room of the library that feels like that. Are you afraid of scarecrows? No? Well bad news, bucko. You’re about to be. We all deal with trauma in different ways. When you lose someone close to you, you find a way of dealing with the pain. For Ollie, books have always been her escape. After her mom’s death, Ollie has consistently lost herself in novels of every stripe, shutting out the world around her. Maybe that’s why she did it. Maybe that’s why she stole that woman’s book. It wasn’t anything she intended to do, of course, but one day, after school, Ollie encountered an odd woman on the cusp of chucking an old book into the river. Possessed by a sense of urgency, Ollie gets the book away from the woman, but not before she is handed a bit of advice. Avoid large spaces. Stick to small. Delving into the book later that night, Ollie discovers it to be the tale of a family wrenched apart by someone only known as “The Smiling Man” and the promises he makes. When Ollie is dragged onto a school trip to a local farm, she doesn’t connect the story with the world around her. Not until she starts noticing the scarecrows. Not until the school bus breaks down in the mist. And not until the scarecrows start noticing her too. Allow me to pause for a moment and offer an ode to a grand first page. A truly good first page of a children’s novel is a thing of beauty. It’s not that anything has to happen, necessarily. It's just that if the author is talented enough then they will actually be able to convey, in roughly half a page, right from the start, whether or not they’re the kind of writer you want to dedicate several hours of your life to. Now consider the first page of Small Spaces. There are ten sentences there and within those ten there are already three or four that I adore. The first reads, “Olivia Adler sat nearest the big window in Mr. Easton’s math class, trying, catlike, to fit her entire body into a patch of light and wishing she were on the other side of the glass. You don’t waste October sunshine.” Aside from being a pretty effective method of conveying a lot of information about a character without being too obvious about it, it’s also an interesting case of foreshadowing. Later in the novel there will be darker moments of craving the October sunshine and of staring through window panes both wanting, and not wanting, to be on the other side. The other sentences read “Mike Campbell got the shivers from squeaking blackboards and, for some reason, from people licking paper napkins. The sixth grade licked napkins around him as much as possible.” No real foreshadowing in that one, and Mike’s not even that important a character. I just love how it’s written. That keen authorial bent with a pen doesn’t just stop on that first page either. Arden's descriptions can often be delicious. “Her eyes looked – stretched – the way a dog looks, hiding under the bed during a thunderstorm.” Or, “The parking lot was full of puddles and the bus squatted in the middle of it like a prehistoric swamp monster.” Extra points are also allotted for including in the book quotes from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland that aren’t the usual suspects. Kids aren’t going to walk away from this book talking it up and lending it to their friends because of the similes or the Lewis Carroll shout-outs, though. They’re going to hand it around because Arden has mastered the art of rising tension that delivers. A good horror novel for kids shouldn’t just feel increasingly creepy. There has to be something truly terrible at its core that is going to get you and do something unspeakable to you. If the threat isn’t real, the tension isn’t going to work. But don’t worry. In this book the threat is real, the bad guy is terrifying, and the tension . . . well, let’s just say you could cut it with a knife hanging off of a smiling scarecrow’s arm. Now you can’t just write a book about a girl going on a creepy school trip. It’s a good thing to mention in the elevator pitch for the book, but there’s gotta be a little more meat on the bones (so to speak). Ollie’s mother is dead so right there that’s good. Dead moms are infinitely good fodder for a storytelling, particularly if the kid isn’t handling it particularly well. If you sit down and consider how odd it is that a remarkably traumatic night is what it takes to help the main character work through her grief, it is a little odd. But hey! That’s what storytelling is all about. Each of the three main kid characters is a fully rendered human being too. Ollie is (Arden is adept at making sure that tragedy does not equate personality) and so too are Coco and Brian. Coco in particular is a character I’ve never encountered in a children’s book before. Sweet, small, probably rich, and a perpetual victim. There’s a lovely moment late in the book when Ollie zeroes in on what makes Coco tick. “Coco didn’t cry because she was weak. Coco cried because she felt things. Ollie never cried because she didn’t feel things. Not anymore. Not really. She tried not to feel things.” Look at the beautiful repetition of those same words, over and over, repeated in different ways in those sentences. It’s still remarkable to me, after all these years, that you can take so few words in a children’s book, rearrange them slightly, and say something profound about a character’s very make-up. The very first moment Ollie is told the titular advice to “Avoid large places at night” and “Keep to small” a memory twitched at the back of my brain. I’d heard that advice before. Where? Ah yes. “The Boy Who Drew Cats”. It’s a Japanese folktale, easily found in (amongst other things) Fable Comics, edited by Chris Duffy. In that story, when a boy leaves the safety of a monastery he is given the advice, “Avoid large places, stick to small.” It’s not a particularly well-known story here in the States and I thought it a clever adaptation to this particular book. Arden makes no mention of the tale in her Acknowledgments so I’m not sure if it’s a coincidence or not. Let’s just say it’s good advice, regardless of where it comes from. Living as we do in a post-Goosebumps world, it’s still funny to me that people haven’t taken more advantage of children’s endless appetites for horror. You’ll occasionally get a television show like Are You Afraid of the Dark? but it’s exceedingly rare. Fortunately middle grade novels never stopped producing creepy fare. Mary Downing Hahn is still alive, kicking, and churning out deathly fare. Mr. R.L. Stine still rules the roost. And with new authors like Katherine Arden picking up the mantle (picking up, heck – improving the mantle!) I’m confident these books aren’t going anywhere. At one point in this book Seth, the farm hand, says to Ollie, “Wherever you go in this big, gorgeous, hideous world, there is a ghost story waiting for you.” You can take that as a threat if you like, but I take it as a promise. For ages 10-12.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Peter Monn

    Much better than I thought it would be. Really enjoyed this. It felt like a more developed Goosebumps book with more character development. My full review will be on my booktube channel at http://YouTube.com/peterlikesbooks

  6. 4 out of 5

    Eryn (Literary Lady)

    Actual: 3.5 / 5 This was my first Katherine Arden novel, and it did not disappoint! I love how unique this was and how much I related to Ollie and her love of reading (amongst other things). Reading this made me feel all nostalgic for whatever reason, too — which was great. For such a short novel, so many things happened. But that’s to be expected from a Children’s book, since it allows their imagination to take over. That being said, it leaves a lot to be desired for someone like me who loves lo Actual: 3.5 / 5 This was my first Katherine Arden novel, and it did not disappoint! I love how unique this was and how much I related to Ollie and her love of reading (amongst other things). Reading this made me feel all nostalgic for whatever reason, too — which was great. For such a short novel, so many things happened. But that’s to be expected from a Children’s book, since it allows their imagination to take over. That being said, it leaves a lot to be desired for someone like me who loves loads of description. I mean, I wish there was more imagery; more development; more answers (I have so many!). Also, I loved Ollie’s dad, so I wish he was more present in the novel. He’s honestly one of the best father figures I’ve read about. That, or I just loved him to pieces, for whatever reason. Brian and Coco were cool characters, too. Brian, I liked more, because of how he surprises you by being more fearful than Ollie, and being open about liking reading and hockey; even though that’s “uncool.” Coco, quite honestly, annoyed me. I wonder if that’s what Arden intended? Ahh, I don’t think so. Overall, I can’t wait to read her more popular series Bear and the Nightingale, I think that's what it's called? But if it’s written with more description and is just as imaginative as this novel, I will definitely love it.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Joey Rambles

    About three things I was absolutely positive: First, this is one of the scariest MG novels I've ever read. Second, there is a possibility that this book might not get the same attention as something like City of Ghosts, which is a shame, because while I liked that novel, this one is an absolute gem and deserves to be treated as such. And third, this is one of the scariest MG novels I've ever read. I was right. Katherine Arden can do no wrong. I sincerely hope she continues writing for a very long ti About three things I was absolutely positive: First, this is one of the scariest MG novels I've ever read. Second, there is a possibility that this book might not get the same attention as something like City of Ghosts, which is a shame, because while I liked that novel, this one is an absolute gem and deserves to be treated as such. And third, this is one of the scariest MG novels I've ever read. I was right. Katherine Arden can do no wrong. I sincerely hope she continues writing for a very long time because this one was just awesome. It's just so creepy and frightening and smart and AWESOME. This is the book all succeeding spooky MG novels have to live up to. Still, the jump from adult fantasy to MG horror is quite a strange one for her to make, but guess what? It really, really works. Katherine Arden is a master at vividly painting a scene, which only raises the eerie factor of this story even higher. Jesus, those scarecrows scared me. Can we go back to the scarecrows that sing and dance, please? As always, Arden's characters are the best part. Ollie is a terrific protagonist. She's a quiet bookworm but she isn't timid. She's feisty and assertive and brave enough to go after what she wants. She reminds me of another feisty little girl who's also the protagonist of a creepy MG novel. (I think her name was Caroline.) The other characters are great too, and their relationships with Ollie are fun and well-developed. I really loved the dad in this one, as well as the two best friends. Friendships in MG novels are always the greatest. Look, I don't know what else to say in order to convince you to read this. It's almost Halloween, anyway, and you need an eerie read for the month. Let it be this one. Don't miss out on it just because it's MG. Or if you know a kid that's into the creeps, buy them this book - they're going to love it. In the meantime, I think I'll go rewatch The Wizard of Oz. Just so scarecrows can stop feeling so creepy.

  8. 5 out of 5

    destiny ♎ [howling libraries]

    I am gonna finish this SO soon. So... so soon. Just... not right now.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Rachel Reads Ravenously

    3 stars A creepy little book with a strange story. I liked it just fine, but it didn't suck me in at all and I found myself skimming at the end. I thought I would find it scary, but after binging the haunting of hill house all weekend I think the scare-o-meter had zero effect on me. I am definitely interested in trying Arden's adult novels, maybe I will connect with those more. Follow me on ♥ Facebook ♥ Blog ♥ Instagram ♥ Twitter ♥

  10. 4 out of 5

    ✨Brithanie Faith✨

    4/5 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐ "When the mist rises, and the smiling man comes walking, you must avoid large places at night. Keep to small." Pros: ❇As I've said already- this definitely reminded me of Goosebumps, or Are You Afraid Of The Dark? If you've never read a Goosebumps book, or watched either of these t.v. shows you probably won't know what I'm talking about, but I felt myself being brought back to a simpler time when the only "horror" I knew was the family friendly kind! I was completely invested in this 4/5 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐ "When the mist rises, and the smiling man comes walking, you must avoid large places at night. Keep to small." Pros: ❇️As I've said already- this definitely reminded me of Goosebumps, or Are You Afraid Of The Dark? If you've never read a Goosebumps book, or watched either of these t.v. shows you probably won't know what I'm talking about, but I felt myself being brought back to a simpler time when the only "horror" I knew was the family friendly kind! I was completely invested in this story, and I enjoyed getting to know more about all of the characters! Cons: ❇️I'm not gonna lie- I do feel as though the ending of this was rushed! There was this feeling as I was reading the final 3 or 4 chapters where I didn't understand how things could be wrapped up so quickly! I don't dislike the ending, but there could have been more! Things could have been explained better (in my opinion)! Final Thoughts/Comments: ❇️This was my first experience with this authors work, but I'm definitely looking forward to reading more from her in the future!

  11. 5 out of 5

    kath | novelandfolk

    It is a confirmed fact that I will read anything Katherine Arden writes. To be honest, I haven’t read a middle grade horror since I was squished into a school bus seat with a tattered copy of Goosebumps in my backpack. It isn’t a genre I had considered revisiting, not for any particular reason other than moving on to other things. However, when I found out that the author of my favourite trilogy was debuting a middle grade novel, of course I had to give it a try. In Small Spaces, Arden really show It is a confirmed fact that I will read anything Katherine Arden writes. 
To be honest, I haven’t read a middle grade horror since I was squished into a school bus seat with a tattered copy of Goosebumps in my backpack. It isn’t a genre I had considered revisiting, not for any particular reason other than moving on to other things. However, when I found out that the author of my favourite trilogy was debuting a middle grade novel, of course I had to give it a try. In Small Spaces, Arden really shows her versatility as an author after giving us the Winternight trilogy. Rather than medieval Russian fairytale settings, frost demons or magic horses, we have preteens, cellphones, and field trips to haunted farms. There are almost no similarities between her works other than just plain good storytelling, and it is really really good. The pages all but turned by themselves in this delightfully spooky tale of eerie scarecrows and a busload of middle grade kids. I devoured the whole thing in one sitting. 
I went into it expecting a scary read (but not TOO scary as to traumatize the kids) and on that account it delivered! I think it will make a bigger impact on its intended age level but can definitely be enjoyed by children and adults alike. But more than just a spooky book, it is about the aftermath of childhood trauma and the grief that takes hold, and about friendship. How Ollie goes from aloof and friendless to gradually accepting her vulnerability and need for her classmates gave me so many feels. 
I am now solidly of the opinion that middle grade horror needs a comeback, especially if Katherine Arden is writing them. ~ 4.75 stars Thank you to the publisher for sending an arc in exchange for an honest review.

  12. 4 out of 5

    samantha (books-are-my-life20)

    So I wanted something to read for Halloween that wasn't blooding or worst and found this had just come out and it looked fun, I went in thinking it would be like The Halloween tree, but found it was pretty creepy mostly because I can't stand scarecrows. But I could see anyone of any age enjoy this like I did if you want something a little spooky to read with no blood or guts.

  13. 4 out of 5

    ☆★Tinja★✮ A Court of Pizza and Laziness

    3.4 stars Great Halloween read but I didn't find it spooky enough. I know it's intended for a younger audience but kid Tinja would have agreed with me ;)

  14. 5 out of 5

    Rylee (Hermit Odysseus)

    If you like added gifs, you can also check out my review here! =) This is a quick read, and perfect for Halloween because it’s goosebump-inducingly spooky (and incidentally reminds me a lot of Goosebumps). I don’t do well with scary, and I seriously can’t emphasize that enough. This one isn’t even scary but it’s shiver-me-creepy and man alive did I have to hold my breath to make it through (yes, I'm that much of a wimp). Let’s begin A list of the creepy elements - scarecrows - smiling (yes, this bo If you like added gifs, you can also check out my review here! =) This is a quick read, and perfect for Halloween because it’s goosebump-inducingly spooky (and incidentally reminds me a lot of Goosebumps). I don’t do well with scary, and I seriously can’t emphasize that enough. This one isn’t even scary but it’s shiver-me-creepy and man alive did I have to hold my breath to make it through (yes, I'm that much of a wimp). Let’s begin A list of the creepy elements - scarecrows - smiling (yes, this book manages to make smiling über creepy) - ghosts - an compelling villain who makes deals with his victims - a book containing secrets of the past - the feeling of being watched - things that move when you aren’t looking at them Warning, there may be spoiler-ish details ahead! The setting The October vibes are on point. It’s fall in Vermont, with a farm and apples and scarecrows. As always, Arden sets the stage beautifully. Her imagery makes it feel undoubtedly like Halloween but without the trick-or-treaters or costumes. Instead we get creepy smiling scarecrows. The heroine Ollie’s mom died, and she’s been using books to escape her reality ever since. The details of what exactly happened to her mom are vague and revealed very slowly. Nothing sinister in her death, just a tragic accident. But you can tell in the writing that the heroine is suppressing her grief and using books to avoid dealing with it. Arden’s writing seems to avoid reliving the trauma just like our heroine, reflecting the MC’s reluctance to process the past by making it evident in the writing that we’re not going to live through it either. Her life came to a stop when her mom died, and she continued on in the stories of others rather than continuing on with her own. Though we never see her mom, her presence is felt throughout the novel as her mom’s wristwatch shows messages that help guide her through the dangers. The element of Ollie processing her mother’s death and moving on is a compelling part of the story, and makes it bigger than simply a few kids defeating a monster thing and going on with their lives. I love her personality. She’s continually defiant, trying to be strong like the heroines she reads about, which makes a great heroine trait for the trials to come. Tired of the pity she gets from everyone, she’s reluctant to be kind towards her classmates and instead comes off as rather rude. She obviously takes the spunky bit too far, pushing everyone away, but it’s just part of the muck she needs to work through. The characters First off, they’re a bunch of 6th graders. It definitely clued me in to this being safe for me to read. Ollie is our heroine, and two classmates-turned-friends end up as the supporting characters. There are some hints of a possible crush-triangle, though Ollie is 11 years old and this plot understandably goes undeveloped.  While the two supporting characters do get sufficient rounding-out, they mainly serve to shine a light on our heroine's journey. Without them, Ollie's transformation from point A to B wouldn't be as obvious. I like them just fine, but Ollie is the focus and I'm good with that. The villain In the end, it’s still unclear who exactly our villain is. There’s a reveal, but we still don’t know much about him. He’s the smiling man, and he makes deals with people for too high a cost, but his history is a question mark. What his goals are, how he attained his power, and who’s rules he has to follow are a mystery. It feels like a sequel could be possible, though the mystery of it works well as a standalone too. There are hints that the villain is still at work, and may return in the future. For a creepy read, I’m alright with this ending as it feels right in line with how this kind of book should end. Overall Compared to other Halloween-y choices, this book is a rather safe read. It has a happy ending, and there’s no sense of loss for our protagonists. They end up in a happier situation than when the book began––united in their friendships, and Ollie isn’t attempting to escape reality anymore. The villain actually did her a favor, forcing her to face reality and come to terms with her mother’s death. I loved this book, though it makes me remember how much braver I was as a kid when I could watch Are You Afraid of the Dark without palpitations (though even as a kid, that intro freaked me out).

  15. 4 out of 5

    rachel

    I don’t think I have ever been recommended an adult fantasy as much as Arden’s The Bear and the Nightingale but in typical Rachel fashion, I jumped on her newest book instead. Small Spaces reminded me why I adore middle grade to this day. It had everything I loved to see: a heartfelt friendship, palpable atmosphere, a twisty, turny plotline, and characters who I came to adore with every fibre of my being. 🎃 Ollie, our protagonist, is such a Gryffindor. She is slowly working through her grief and d I don’t think I have ever been recommended an adult fantasy as much as Arden’s The Bear and the Nightingale but in typical Rachel fashion, I jumped on her newest book instead. Small Spaces reminded me why I adore middle grade to this day. It had everything I loved to see: a heartfelt friendship, palpable atmosphere, a twisty, turny plotline, and characters who I came to adore with every fibre of my being. 🎃 Ollie, our protagonist, is such a Gryffindor. She is slowly working through her grief and depression and the way that Arden tackled these themes without belittling the target audience was admirable. 🎃 Coco has just moved from the city and is the brunt of her classmates’ jokes more often than not. Despite the fact that she is almost constantly in tears, she helps Ollie realise that it is better to be in touch with your feelings than pretending they don’t exist. 🎃 Brian, the nerdy jock w/ a heart of gold. His relationship with the girl warmed my cold, dead heart. There’s nothing I love more than unlikely friendships. I may also be completely in love with Ollie’s father. His dad jokes had me cry-laughing like a goddamn emoji. Atmosphere is so essential to a good horror story and Small Spaces didn’t disappoint. It was chilling. Who knew scarecrows could be so sinister? I will admit, yes, it was a little predictable. But the fact that I read this in a single afternoon, unable to put it down, speaks for itself. It had an undeniably addictive quality. Overall? If you are looking for a Halloween read this month, this is not to skip! I highly recommended it. Even if middle grade is not your go-to age range, I promise Small Spaces has something for everyone. 🍂 Rep: Ollie (mc) has grief-related depression; Brian (sc) is Jamaican 🌻Trigger warnings for grief/loss, bullying, death of a mother and fire. Recounted murder, disappearance of a loved one, plane crash, death of a child, and physical assault. Mentions suicide. Blog • Goodreads • Twitter • Instagram

  16. 4 out of 5

    Hollis

    For those of us who grew up in the nineties (#datingmyself), SMALL SPACES is going to feel totally nostalgic for the days when you begged your parents to buy you the newest Goosebumps or Fear Street release, whatever RL Stine was putting out on any given day. This has that small town creepy factor, with intrepid children, and clues to follow with a mystery to solve, in order to save the day. The fact that I picked this up on the official first day of fall, and got to cuddle under a blanket as I For those of us who grew up in the nineties (#datingmyself), SMALL SPACES is going to feel totally nostalgic for the days when you begged your parents to buy you the newest Goosebumps or Fear Street release, whatever RL Stine was putting out on any given day. This has that small town creepy factor, with intrepid children, and clues to follow with a mystery to solve, in order to save the day. The fact that I picked this up on the official first day of fall, and got to cuddle under a blanket as I read, was pretty perfect. You might get to know characters in books, Ollie thought, but getting to know a human was an entirely different thing. Was the book perfect though? I mean, I was often entertained when I gave it my full attention, but it didn't really keep my interest. What I should've been able to finish in less than two hours took me most of the weekend to read; amongst chores and other distractions. But it was atmospheric, gloomy, and just a little bit sad, whilst being simultaneously warm and full of comforting foods and hope. I did enjoy it but I can't say I loved it. Honestly for all the creativity of the story, the scarecrows, and the bargains, I thought the three characters to be the highlight of this read. I would definitely read more about Ollie, Brian and Coco, but I love where they ended up in the end. For people with kids or family in the MG reading age, however, I would still recommend -- especially for this time of year. I think this is the perfect addition to the age-appropriate Stine-loving crowd. And if you the gifter or you the buddy-reader find you enjoy this writing, check out Arden's adult series, the Winternight trilogy. Highly highly so highly recommend. 3.25 stars ** I received an ARC from PenguinTeen (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **

  17. 5 out of 5

    andrea caro

    Why, yes, spooky middle-grade is my bread and butter. Added this to the favorites shelf.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Katerina Kondrenko

    7.5 out of 10 Very nice middle-grade story! I loved the writing (Arden knows how to make the words flow), creepy atmosphere, and the pacing. Oh, and the friendship too! Bromance development between the main characters was really great!

  19. 5 out of 5

    Amy

    I truly appreciate Katherine Arden so much as a writer. She paints such perfect pictures and makes you feel like you’re right there. I was first introduced to her writing when I read The Bear and the Nightingale, and while these two stories are geared toward different age groups, Arden once again brought us all the the spooky, dark vibes. Small Spaces follows Ollie, a sixth-grader from Vermont who is recovering from the death of her mom. She’s depressed and tends to isolate herself from friends a I truly appreciate Katherine Arden so much as a writer. She paints such perfect pictures and makes you feel like you’re right there. I was first introduced to her writing when I read The Bear and the Nightingale, and while these two stories are geared toward different age groups, Arden once again brought us all the the spooky, dark vibes. Small Spaces follows Ollie, a sixth-grader from Vermont who is recovering from the death of her mom. She’s depressed and tends to isolate herself from friends and her father. One day she comes across a woman crying. The woman is holding a book called Small Spaces, and she wants to throw it into the creek. Ollie believes books shouldn’t be thrown away so she takes it. The following day she and her classmates go on a field trip to a farm, and Ollie begins to notice strange similarities between the farm and the spooky contents in the book. Ollie and her two classmates, Brian and Coco, now have to work together to figure out how to escape the woods and save their friends. Small Spaces is such a perfect read for Halloween. I think even if you’re an adult you’ll still love the haunted setting and atmospheric writing. I can’t really gauge the “creep factor” for children, but I think if I had to rate it on a scale of 1-5 (5 being the scariest) I’d probably give it 3.5. While I didn’t find it to be scary I can see this perhaps freaking out young readers since there are some creepy scenes that involve ghosts, dark woods, and being chased. But aside from the horror plot line, there were so many wonderful themes I appreciated. This story beautifully showcases the importance of friendship and teamwork. It’s about standing up for someone and caring for them in dire times. It’s about facing your fears while also coming to terms with loss and healing emotionally. Arden also includes some of the best characters. Coco reminded me a lot of Luna Lovegood, how she dances to beat of her own drum and doesn’t care what others think. And Brian is a sporty “jock” from Jamaica who isn’t afraid to step up to help others. While this book does have some bullying I love how Arden addresses stereotypes and shows us how these children handle it. Overall this book was such a treat to read and I really hope we see more middle grade books from Katherine Arden. I am so happy I read this in the Fall. ❤ Content/trigger warning: Loss of a parent, minor bullying, depression.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Claudia ✨

    It's official. Katherine Arden is the queen of writing atmospheric books. Small Spaces is so very different from her beautiful debut, The Bear and The Nightingale, without losing her enchanting writing or taking away from this being a middlegrade novel. I had a friend who said that this reminded her of Goosebumps, and I could not agree more. So what is it about? Eleven-year-old Ollie is trying to get her life together after losing someone very close to her, and doesn't feel much joy except for w It's official. Katherine Arden is the queen of writing atmospheric books. Small Spaces is so very different from her beautiful debut, The Bear and The Nightingale, without losing her enchanting writing or taking away from this being a middlegrade novel. I had a friend who said that this reminded her of Goosebumps, and I could not agree more. So what is it about? Eleven-year-old Ollie is trying to get her life together after losing someone very close to her, and doesn't feel much joy except for when she is reading. So when she stumbles upon a crazed woman who is trying to throw away a book into the river, Ollie doesn't even think before she steps in and saves the book. The book, called Small Spaces, soon turns out to be a strange and creepy old thing, that somehow reminds Ollie of a tragedy that happened at a farm close to her. It also mentions dark bargains made in the woods, lost people and a smiling man... Could the story actually be true? And where does that leave Ollie? I really regret that I didn't pick this up as soon as it came out - as I said before, it's awfully atmospheric, and would have been a perfect read for Halloween. I actually found it really creepy at times, and when one of my books fell down from the shelf while I was reading this I almost jumped out of my skin. Immersed is a understatement. I really liked all the character too, and how easily Arden writes diversity. And even though this was both a book aimed towards a younger audience, and quite short, the characters were extremely well developed and complex. Especially Ollie, who could make stupid mistakes quite often, but always stayed sympathetic and believable. This is probably my favorite middlegrade novel yet, and I have many that I love. Katherine Arden just continues to shine, and if she released more books like this, I wouldn't be able to stay away.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Stephanie Gillespie

    "Wherever you go in this big, gorgeous, hideous world, there is a ghost story waiting for you.”  Small spaces is Katherine Arden’s first middle grade book, and the first book I’ve read by this author. I am in love with her writing, it's so good! I cannot wait to read Bear and the Nightingale this winter. This story follows Ollie, a 12 year old girl in the sixth grade living in Vermont. She is dealing with the death of her mom, she is isolated from the other kids in her class. On her way home from "Wherever you go in this big, gorgeous, hideous world, there is a ghost story waiting for you.”  Small spaces is Katherine Arden’s first middle grade book, and the first book I’ve read by this author. I am in love with her writing, it's so good! I cannot wait to read Bear and the Nightingale this winter. This story follows Ollie, a 12 year old girl in the sixth grade living in Vermont. She is dealing with the death of her mom, she is isolated from the other kids in her class. On her way home from school, she comes across a woman crying by the lake. The woman is holding a book and wants to throw it into the water. Ollie takes the book from the woman. The next day Ollie’s class is on a delis trip, visiting an old farm where Ollie notices the woman from the lake. She starts to notice some strange things surrounding the book and what is happening around her. Small Spaces is a perfect Halloween book. The setting is atmospheric and haunting. It was the best thing about this book, the writing transports you to the woods with the children.The scarecrows are eerie and gave me major creepy vibes. Even though this is a middle grade novel I think there is something in it even adults will enjoy. “When the mist rises, it said, and the smiling man comes walking, you must avoid large places at night.”  This story also touches on the importance of friendship. Ollie needs to rely on her friends Coco and Brian to get through the night safely.  Coco is the smallest girl in the class, she is also the new girl moving to his town from a big city. She is a target for bullying, she reminds me of Luna Lovegood, needless to say I loved her! Brian is Jamaican and your stereotype middle school jock. But we get to see a side of him he doesn't show everyone. Also touches on grief, how death affects people and the healing that comes afterwards. It's just a beautiful book that has something for every age not just for children. I really loved this book, and it's the perfect time to read this haunting story.  The cover reflects its eerie tone and spookiness of the story. I highly recommend this book.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Xavier (CharlesXplosion)

    Small Space is a spooky, Halloween read that is ensure to delight as well as haunt.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Jocelyn

    I get a little more in-depth with my thoughts here, but basically, this is a wonderfully spooky, atmospheric middle grade that gives you those cozy autumnal feels.

  24. 4 out of 5

    stefiereads

    All the stars seriously!!! This is the first time ever I don’t want a story to end. Yes I love a lot of books, but this one is special. I am not sure why I feel this way, but last night I got goosebumps all of my body by just thinking about story. And please note that last night, I haven’t read the whole book, just half of it. It sent chills all over my body! Dang this book! It’s atmospheric, haunting and SO FREAKING CREEPY!!!!! I can see why some will say that it has Goosebumps vibes into it! I to All the stars seriously!!! This is the first time ever I don’t want a story to end. Yes I love a lot of books, but this one is special. I am not sure why I feel this way, but last night I got goosebumps all of my body by just thinking about story. And please note that last night, I haven’t read the whole book, just half of it. It sent chills all over my body! Dang this book! It’s atmospheric, haunting and SO FREAKING CREEPY!!!!! I can see why some will say that it has Goosebumps vibes into it! I told my husband half of the story last night and I got goosebumps just by telling him the story too. Like what the heck is this book did to me? It feels so real. It gives me the weird feeling of me wishing that I am in the book and see all of this with my own eyes, but also I really don’t want it to be real! You see my problem? The other thing I love about Small Spaces is the fact there are some heartwarming scenes here and there that will really warmth your heart. My point is, JUST PICK THIS BOOK AND READ IT BEFORE THE AUTUMN ENDS!!!!! Also, can someone take me to the corn maze please?

  25. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    Middle grade horror isn't something I usually read, but apparently Katherine Arden has the talent to make every story into something I end up loving. Excellent and genuinely spooky tale with great characters.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Ellie (faerieontheshelf)

    I swear to the gods above this better be published in the UK too otherwise I will become a small angry ball of agitation ;-;

  27. 5 out of 5

    The Captain

    Ahoy there me mateys! Ever since I read the bear and the nightingale, I have been in love with this author’s writing. So while waiting for book 3 of that trilogy, I thought I would give her middle-grade novel a whirl because I don’t put age limits on reading. And this was a fun one. This story follows Ollie who finds solace in being alone and reading in order to escape the pain of losing her mother. Then one cold day she goes to her favorite spot by the creek to find someone has gotten there firs Ahoy there me mateys! Ever since I read the bear and the nightingale, I have been in love with this author’s writing. So while waiting for book 3 of that trilogy, I thought I would give her middle-grade novel a whirl because I don’t put age limits on reading. And this was a fun one. This story follows Ollie who finds solace in being alone and reading in order to escape the pain of losing her mother. Then one cold day she goes to her favorite spot by the creek to find someone has gotten there first! An older woman is there raving about a book and is preparing to toss it into the water. But Ollie can’t let a book be destroyed and so she grabs it and runs. Curious about the book, she begins to read what appears to be a journal and becomes completely engrossed. But suddenly weird things are happening in her town that seem to mirror that of the book. Can Ollie solve the mystery before bad things happen to everyone around her? I absolutely adored Ollie and her schoolmates Coco and Brian! I loved watching their relationships and beliefs about one another change because they are thrown together in their unusual situation. I also thought this was a poignant portrayal of loss and depression – both for Ollie and her dad. Ollie uses books to help her with her grief. It shows how two people can love each other and yet grown distance because of pain. I also loved her dad for his baking, paint choices, and silly jokes. But the book does have its creepy moments with ghosts, getting lost, and an evil being. Oh and the scarecrows. I have never been one to think scarecrows were anything less than harmless. But I may have to rethink that sentiment and look over me shoulder whenever in a corn field. Eek! I think this be a delightful book with wonderful themes and lessons. Don’t just take me word on it (though yer Captain’s word should be enough!). Check out these other reviews by me crew. Then go get a copy. That’s an order. Arrr! Amy @ acourtofcrownsandquills– “But aside from the horror plot line, there were so many wonderful themes I appreciated. This story beautifully showcases the importance of friendship and teamwork. It’s about standing up for someone and caring for them in dire times. It’s about facing your fears while also coming to terms with loss and healing emotionally.” Melanie @ meltotheany– “Small Spaces is Katherine Arden’s debut middle grade novel and I loved it so very much friends. Many of you know that The Bear and the Nightingale is one of my favorite books of all-time, and even though these stories are nothing like one another, the beautiful writing, amazing characters, and important themes shine through. I went into this expecting a fun and spooky read (which it was), but what I also got was such a beautiful love letter to grief, depression, and trying to live in a world that has taken away someone who you feel you cannot live without.” Side note: Anyone else super excited for the winter of the witch? I can’t wait. Arrr! Check out me other reviews on

  28. 4 out of 5

    Bethany

    I picked this up because I have loved the adult fantasy by this author, but I wasn't sure how I would feel about her writing a middle grade book. I'm happy to report that this was an unexpectedly amazing reading experience! I read this in a single sitting and could not put it down. Small Spaces is a deliciously creepy ghost story featuring some pretty terrifying scarecrows and a brave young heroine who is grieving the death of her mother. Full of adventure, friendship, a warm family, and some su I picked this up because I have loved the adult fantasy by this author, but I wasn't sure how I would feel about her writing a middle grade book. I'm happy to report that this was an unexpectedly amazing reading experience! I read this in a single sitting and could not put it down. Small Spaces is a deliciously creepy ghost story featuring some pretty terrifying scarecrows and a brave young heroine who is grieving the death of her mother. Full of adventure, friendship, a warm family, and some super scary moments, this is the perfect autumn read! My 12-year-old self would probably have had nightmares and refused to go near scarecrows for awhile, so for the age definitely be aware that this is not a lightly creepy book. Regardless, it's beautifully written, a very quick read, and perfect for kids or teens who are into the milder side of horror or scary ghost stories that still end well.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Gillian

    Can I just say that this is a middle-grade book, but the number of creeps it gave me made me refuse to go to the toilet at 2 AM? 😱 I don't know if reading this at midnight made that happened or I'm really just a scaredy cat. But holy fuck, this book is really creepy and so so good!!! Even reading City of Ghosts didn't give me this much chills. (view spoiler)[Okay, but seriously, those scarecrows really freaked the fuck out of me and I'm surprised I didn't have nightmares after that. (hide spoil Can I just say that this is a middle-grade book, but the number of creeps it gave me made me refuse to go to the toilet at 2 AM? 😱 I don't know if reading this at midnight made that happened or I'm really just a scaredy cat. But holy fuck, this book is really creepy and so so good!!! Even reading City of Ghosts didn't give me this much chills. (view spoiler)[Okay, but seriously, those scarecrows really freaked the fuck out of me and I'm surprised I didn't have nightmares after that. (hide spoiler)]

  30. 5 out of 5

    Samm | Sassenach the Book Wizard

    So this was actually freaking adorable and creepy. Olivia is like my second favourite MG pov. Also, scarecrows are just clowns made of a vegetable.

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