Review - Small Spaces by Katherine Arden

Small Spaces by Katherine Arden
Series: Small Spaces #1
Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: September 25, 2018
Date Read: March 16, 2019
Length: 224 pages
Source: Library
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.
My Review

I enjoyed this middle-grade book quite a lot.  After finishing The Winter of the Witch, I was in a bit of book hangover so I decided to see what else Katherine Arden has written because I needed more of her writing just as soon as possible.  When I found out that she had recently published a middle-grade novel, I was really quite eager to get my hands on it so I put in a request at my local library and waited for my turn with the book.  I am so glad that I decided to check this book out.

I liked this book as an adult but I am pretty sure that as a child I would have absolutely loved it.  I found this book to be a really quick read, reading it in its entirety on a single morning.  I don't think that I put it down even once which says a whole lot about the book.   The writing had a really wonderful flow as I would expect from this author.

Ollie is a rather spunky girl who has been through a whole lot.  When she sees a woman throwing a book into the water, she feels like she needs to save it so she does.  Her class takes a field trip to a local farm the next day where she runs into the same woman once again.  That is when things really start to get strange.

I loved the atmosphere in this story.   This is a really spooky story which could at times be rather intense.  As the story progressed, we learned more about what Ollie has been through and I fell in love with her character.  She really was a very brave girl.  Two of her friends are with her and I really liked seeing how they worked together and grew close over the course of the story.

I would recommend this book to fans of middle-grade stories.  This book featured a wonderful group of characters making their way through a difficult and often spooky situation.  I loved how hopeful the book's ending was and enjoyed some of the more touching moments along the way.  I definitely plan to read more of this series once it is available.

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 crêpes to guiding horse trips. Currently she lives in Vermont, but really, you never know.
Author Links: Website | Goodreads | Facebook | Twitter


  1. middle grade creepy stories? RL Stine or Katherine ARden?

  2. I love middle grade books and wish there had been more of these when I was growing up. This is going right to my wish list!

  3. It sounds like a good middle grade one

  4. It's not my kind of book but I'm glad you enjoyed it.

  5. I'm glad you enjoyed it. I like this author. Anne - Books of My Heart

  6. I have this author on my TBR and love MG so this sounds amazing. Plus I love the ghostly element.

  7. I have this one on my TBR. Everyone seems to really love it, and you know I love a hopeful ending.

  8. Oh I need to find this one. Didn't even know she wrote a creepy MG book!

  9. I had no idea she had written this

  10. When I think back to the lack of choice I had when I was a kid compared to now, I feel pretty hard done by!

  11. I think the last time I read a middle grade book is when I had middle grade age children, it's been a few years, but I do enjoy them.. I like the spooky cover. Glad to hear it was a win! :)

  12. I can't wait to pick this one up! Awesome review!

  13. It sounds like Arden can write for both adults and middle grade readers quite well and I am glad you were able to enjoy this book so much! The cover itself already makes it look fun. First, I want to try her fantasy trilogy but maybe this is one for me afterward.

  14. Well, this sounds right up my alley... I loved the Winternight books and I love reading MG! Thanks for sharing your review. ��✨


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