The Clackity

I am continually impressed by the range of stories available for middle grade readers that I would have loved to be able to read when I was that age. While horror was not my first choice to read at the time, I'm enjoying getting to know some of the darker sides of middle grade literature because they have so much to offer kids than first meets the eye. The Clackity is the story of a girl named Evelyn who is desperately trying to reunite her family after her best person is ripped unceremoniously from her comfortable, predictable world. Facing her own anxieties, Evie bravely steps into the unknown in order to fix what has been broken without losing herself along the way. I kept imagining this book unfolding as a video game, and I hope that ends up in the works some day! If you're into spooky stories with lots of heart, this one is not to be missed. Please see my full review below!

As the seventh most haunted town in America, it is not surprising that ghosts and other mysterious circumstances permeate the town of Blight Harbor. Evelyn Van Rathe is nearly thirteen years old, and she has lived in Blight Harbor since the untimely disappearance of her parents four years earlier. She is convinced her parents are not dead, but she has nonetheless settled into a comfortable life with her best person: her Aunt Des. So, when Des goes to the spooky abbatoir in town and gets pulled into an inexplicable darkness, Evie must work through her anxieties and enter the unknown in order to bring Des back home.

This spooky middle grade adventure does an excellent job blending the very real sensation of anxiety with an adventure that often feels as though it is pulled straight from a nightmare. Told in the first person, readers are quite literally inside of Evie's mind as she puzzles through the challenges set before her and utilizes calming techniques to ease the uncertainty she feels. The story itself is built upon a progressive structure, with each moment leading very clearly into the next. Just as Evie is learning to put one foot in front of the other when she is feeling out of control, the unfolding of the narrative mirrors her behavior with obvious forward momentum. Life is not easy, especially without one's parents, but Evie discovers the strength inside of herself through the help of unexpected and supportive companions.

Because of the overall design of this story, it would translate quite well to a video game format. With each passing scene, Evie gains another skill or object that helps her get closer to her desired goal. There are an assortment of creepy elements within the novel, from ghosts and other frightening characters to unpredictable locations that change with no notice at all, which can be intense for some readers. Occasional illustrations increase this feeling by making specific moments in the story more palpable and connecting readers more viscerally to Evie's plight. For middle grade readers who enjoy the adrenaline spike that comes from a nightmare, this story is one that will fuel their enthusiasm while incorporating a feeling of wholesome family connection along the way. Elements of recognizable tales like Alice in Wonderland and The Lord of the Rings enhance this unique and spellbinding tale of a young girl whose bravery increases each time she faces down her fears. This is an excellent contribution to library collections for middle grade readers.

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