Middle Grade Monday: Small Spaces by Katherine Arden

MG MOnday

Hey everyone!  We’ve moved Middle-Grade Monday over from our TBR and Beyond Facebook Group to the blog! Hopefully we can bring you lots of great reviews, topics and maybe even some author interviews!
I’m a massive middle-grade fan, and I’m always trying to get people to give it a shot! Hopefully these reviews will give you a better idea if you want to try out the books or not! That is the goal anyway!




My rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Genre: Middle-Grade Horror
Pages: 218
Pacing: Normal Paced, Faster Pacing the further you get in the book
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers
Published: September 25th,  2018

Trigger Warnings: Grief of a loved one, Depression, some bullying (challenged) and younger children may find the spooky setting frightening.


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. Synopsis from Goodreads.


“Avoid large places. Keep to small.”

Why haven’t I read anything sooner by this incredible author? This book was perfection.  It was heartfelt, had great characters and most importantly – was actually spooky! It’s the perfect Halloween read, or if you are like me, it’s a perfect all-year round read.

Middle-grade horror is probably my favorite for this category.  As much as I love fantasy, I tend to seek out the horror even more in middle-grade.  It’s so much stronger than it is in YA currently and it’s usually spookier.  Don’t ask me why that is but there are so many horror gems in middle-grade and this is certainly one of them.

Small Spaces is about grief at it’s core.  I lost my mother late last year and have been trying to avoid stories that deal with loss of parents, but that seems to be pretty much impossible if you are reading middle-grade or young adults novels.  I knew going in that this story was going to be tackling this sensitive topic and I thought it did it with such grace and respect.  There were times I felt like I was going through the grieving process with the main character, so it was kind of a cathartic experience for me.  If you have lost a loved one recently, just be aware that this topic is very heavily focused on.

The book features three young kids:

Ollie: Our main protagonist. A twelve year old girl, who has isolated herself at school and home, after losing her mother.
Coco: The oddball of the school, is frequently bullied but doesn’t seem to let it get her too down.  She is completely comfortable with who she is, even if she can be a bit much at times.
Brian: The cool jock at school, who isn’t quite as he appears.

The school takes a field trip to a local farm and it isn’t long before some crazy shit starts to go down.  The kids are left stranded and scared in a bus, with the threat that something is coming to get them.  The three main kids set out into the woods on their own to hopefully save themselves (and the others) and get to the bottom of what is going on.

I won’t get into too much of the specifics with this story but things get dark, quite dark.  I wouldn’t call this story outright terrifying but there is always a looming sense of dread and the atmosphere is very creepy.  This might be too scary for younger children but most children could likely handle this by 8-10 years old, but they might sleep with the light on that night 😉

I highly recommend this book, it’s certainly not just a book for children.  This has many elements that adults can enjoy and the writing is outstanding.  I can’t wait for the next book, I’m not sure if this is a duology or a series but I’ll be first in line to purchase!


14 thoughts on “Middle Grade Monday: Small Spaces by Katherine Arden

  1. Thanks for sharing! This looks like a really great read!! I always plan on reading more middle-grade but somehow hardly ever get around to actually read them, yikes!! Fly by Night by Frances Hardinge is one that I really want to read this year!

    Liked by 1 person

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