Middle school. Can be. Hell.
Ya know - you kind of get the feeling Jon David Anderson may have taught a day or two of middle school. If this is true, he was paying attention. He would have been one of the teachers who saw and/or sensed the truth of the horror that was going on in little looks, little pranks, huge feelings, enormous fears, and hideous, just hideous kids who treated each other viciously - none of the empathy classes got a toehold there.
Riley is stuck in front of a dead frog on just another day of horror at Northridge Elementary School. She's watching Grace and Chris play slap each other and test out their novel, insidious new feelings of attraction to each other. In these two there isn't much room for humanity. For them it's find someone to punish, someone to bully, someone to humiliate so you can hold on to the illusion that you are somehow better.
So while Riley is watching a video on a headset, it's Chris who sneaks up on her and brushes the dead frog against her lips. Anybody think there's an audience for this good time? It's Chris who gets sent out of the room. But hours later it's Grace and her posse of monster girls who stuff Riley into a closet and leave her. School is out. There is no one to hear her pounding or her screams.
But Riley never, ever could have predicted the frog coming to life. Riley never could have imagined that ghosts might be real and that those ghosts might need her to put an end to their infinite desperation.
This story .....this story..... lordy this is a painful story. Mean Girls ain't got nuttin' on this one and the level of anxiety, of some people's need.... like obsession.... to put somebody else down..... in this story it reaches a height that a whole lotta middle schoolers are going to recognize.
This one really sits in a place way above the other middle school stories because it travels at a level of pain that few authors have dared to put out on the table. But I'll bet the middle school teachers have seen it and they've wondered what to do. David Jon Anderson decided to show it to the world. He decided to pull away the nicey niceness of pretending not to see, pretending it really isn't that bad.
What a great heart this author has. How deeply this guy must care about those kids.
Can Riley survive her hours in her middle school, locked in a closet, freed into the chaos of a nightmare of desperation and ghosts and a dissected frog that asks to have its parts put back? Would you?
368 pages 978-0062985972 Ages 10-13
Keywords: middle school, ghosts, bullying, horror, bullies, self esteem, belonging, friends, fitting in, 10 year old, 11 year old, 12 year old, 13 year old, supernatural
Recommended by: Barb Langridge, abookandahug.com
Editor's note: Very intense; take care
From John David Anderson, acclaimed author of Posted, comes a ghost story pulled from the darkest shadows of middle school.
Riley Flynn is alone.
It feels like she’s been on her own since sixth grade, when her best friend, Emily, ditched her for the cool girls. Girls who don’t like Riley. Girls who decide one day to lock her in the science closet after hours, after everyone else has gone home.
When Riley is finally able to escape, however, she finds that her horror story is only just beginning. All the school doors are locked, the windows won’t budge, the phones are dead, and the lights aren't working. Through halls lit only by the narrow beam of her flashlight, Riley roams the building, seeking a way out, an answer, an explanation. And as she does, she starts to suspect she isn’t alone after all.
While she’s always liked a good scary story, Riley knows there is no such thing as ghosts. But what else could explain the things happening in the school, the haunting force that seems to lurk in every shadow, around every corner? As she tries to find answers, she starts reliving moments that brought her to this night. Moments from her own life...and a life that is not her own.---from the publisher