The Crossroads by Chris Grabenstein
Reading level: Ages 9-12
Hardcover: 336 pages
Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers (May 27, 2008)
What do you get when you cross a bit of mystery and suspense, a little fright, and a whole lot of ghosts? A great new summer read that boys and girls alike will enjoy. Chris Grabenstein's first children's novel, The Crossroads will keep you on the edge of your seat the entire time you're reading the book.
Eleven-year-old Zack Jennings has just moved from New York City with his father and new stepmother to his father's hometown in Connecticut. While Zack was looking forward to a fresh start and getting away from the ghost of his dead mother, he didn't realize he was going to come face to face with many more ghosts. You see, 50 years ago, there was a horrific accident that occurred at the crossroads near Zack's house, killing 41 people. But why are their ghosts still around, and why is one intent on killing Zack?
From the get-go, the novel draws you in:
"Have you ever seen a face hidden in the bark of a tree and known that the man trapped inside wanted to hurt you?" (p. 1)
This spooky and intriguing intro draws you into this fast-paced novel, divided into short chapters that tell the stories of both the living and dead. Grabenstein does a masterful job of interweaving everyone's story leading up to a dramatic and chilling climax. He also introduces us to some wonderful characters along the way: the shy Zack who really only wants to fit in; Judy, the cool, caring, and understanding stepmother; Gerda Spratling, the mysterious, eccentric, and evil woman who has been putting flowers at a roadside memorial for decades; Ms. Emerson, the quirky librarian; Davy, Zack's new friend from Kentucky; and of course, the evil ghost Clint whose mind is set on revenge.
Grabenstein also does a wonderful job of developing the relationship between Zack and his stepmother Judy, and the heartwarming ending conveys a positive outlook for this family.
I recommend this book for kids who are into ghosts and mystery.