Lets be clear, this book is aimed at the US middle-grade cohort of readers which I think is in the 11-13 age bracket. It’s not exactly a horror story but I could see how it could be classed as scary. It certainly takes the readers out of their comfort zone into a realm where things are very different.
It all starts in Krazyland which is one of those places aimed at entertaining the pre-teens by letting them run amok in twisty pipes and ball pits. When they need a break from the physical exertions there’s a range of amusement arcade machines to keep them going. Nathan is our 13 year-old unlikely hero and is somewhat coerced into attending Jenny’s birthday party at the local Krayzyland.
There’s several things which mean this is not going to be a happy experience for Nathan. Firstly, his older cousin Jake is there to torment him. Secondly, Jenny is family so attendance is mandatory even if she and her friends are 4 years younger than Nathan. Lastly, Krazyland is owned by Nathan’s Uncle Steven who will no doubt start giving Nathan jobs to do. There’s also something lurking at Krazyland which is much, much worse.
A child goes missing. Not an unusual occurrence at these types of venues, as the little brat darlings are usually hiding in one of the twisty tubes or at the bottom of the ball pit. It’s a classical tactic to extend their stay. Of course, Nathan gets tasked with searching the usual places. He’s still small enough to be able to traverse the tubes but big enough to handle the ball pits.
All the usual places are checked and the missing child is found hiding in a ball pit. It’s while trying to shepherd the young child out of the pit that Nathan notices a couple of odd things. His foot seems to go through a hole in the netting at the bottom of the pit which shouldn’t be possible. The netting is designed to withstand everything young kids could possibly do to it. Then there is the odd noise. At first, its just a low rumbling noise but on the second time he hears it Nathan thinks it could possibly be a voice and its coming from below the ball pit.
There’s joy all round when the missing child is reunited with his mother until Nathan realises he’s lost his phone. Backtracking his previous movements doesn’t help and, after conceding that he’s lost his phone, Nathan decides to hide in the party room which is now vacant. It’s here he meets Mercy, Krazyland’s sole paid employee who has a habit of falling asleep on the job.
Eventually, Nathan emerges from hiding in the party room to discover that another child has gone missing. Only this time the Police has been called. Fearing a possible kidnapping the police close Krazyland and start taking statements from everyone.
After everyone leaves, Steven enrols Jake, Mercey and Nathan to do another search of the premises. Its at the large ball pit where Nathan meets up with Mercy again. She seems to know something odd is going on. Might even know where the missing child has gone, too.
There are places where reality, somewhere as Mercy calls it, is a bit thin and its possible to step through into nowhere. This is the opposite of somewhere and contains nothing as somewhere always contains something. There is a thin place in the large ball pit where reality has been leaking through to nowhere. This bit of nowhere is now populated with caricatures of the things that can be found in Krazyland. When your starting with something as odd as Krazyland, the end results are not going to be good.
The tale is about how Nathan and Mercy have to work together to rescue the missing child and fix the hole in reality. Everything real needs to be returned to somewhere so nowhere returns to containing nothing. Much easier to say than to actually do.
Nathan does a lot of character building and becomes something more than the little fat lad who has few friends. The same is true for Mercy and Jake who have their own demons to fight.
I found the book to be a rather good read. It’s a scary book which doesn’t depend on gory violence. The concepts are novel and there are humours moments, too. If I was to criticise anything about it I’d say, it is perhaps a bit long at 272 pages. It’s worth the read to get to the nice, tidy finish, though.
(pub: Delacorte Press/Penguin, 2022. 272 page book. Price: $22.99 (US). ISBN: 978-0-59343-115-3, ebook. Ebook: Price: £ 6.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-0-593-43117-7. Audio appears free on trail)
check out website: www.penguinrandomhouse.ca/imprints/7A/delacorte-press