Book Review

Book Review: Small Spaces (Small Spaces #1) by Katherine Arden

Rating: ☆☆☆☆
Audience: Middle Grade Horror
Length: 218 pages
Author: Katherine Arden
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Release Date: September 25th, 2018
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads


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.


Wow this was SPOOKY for a middle grade read! Had me shivering a few times at the absolute creepiness of those scarecrows. Hard NOPE. I will not be hanging around a corn maze or pumpkin patch after dark, better believe that.

This was a good book though. A quick audio book read that kept me interested and worried for all involved. It was an interesting tale and strong characters. I enjoyed Ollie. She really fit the middle school narrative (in a good way). Ollie was coping with loss, friendships and finding a way to take on the fear in front of her.

It’s fast-paced and reminds me of why I love Arden’s writing [if you’re new here, The Winternight Trilogy is one of my favorite series EVER]. I will happily keep reading anything she publishes and this is no exception. An eerie atmosphere with budding friendships really brought this book home. I have definite plans to continue this series!

Overall audience notes:

  • Middle grade horror
  • Language: none
  • Romance: none
  • Content warnings: minor bullying, loss of a loved one, grief and depression

Instagram || Goodreads

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