Review by Sarah Bihn (she/her)
MLIS Student, Kent State University iSchool
When James and his family move from Texas to Oregon, he feels that life as he knew it is over, and that nothing good can come from the change of scenery. If only he knew how right he was. To make matters worse, the move feels even more doomed without the presence of their abuelita, who had passed shortly before, and not even her recorded stories can make it better. While the new house seems cool, and the neighbors perfect, the uncanny feeling James cannot shake soon takes physical form. In the midst of a prank war with his little sister, Ava, James finds a letter on his desk from someone named “The Keeper” warning him about their new neighborhood. At first, James decides that Ava must have written the letter as the next attack in their prank war, but when more letters arrive and accidents start to happen around James, he realizes just how dangerous their new home and neighbors are.
While James and Ava love their parents, a history of planning jokes on one another backfires as their parents refuse to believe that they might be in danger and instead insist they need to call off their self-declared war. Without any help from the adults, it is up to James, Ava, and the advice left to them by their abuelita to ensure that they do not become the next victims in their town’s long line of missing children.
Partly inspired by the true crime case of the Westfield Watcher, McCall creates a story filled with twists, dark magic, and coming-of-age. While some questions were not answered by the end of the book, the book was an overall decent introduction for middle-grade children into the world of horror, and provided just enough of a creepy atmosphere for adults to also enjoy.