cover image The Pricker Boy

The Pricker Boy

Reade Scott Whinnem. Random, $16.99 (288p) ISBN 978-0-375-85719-5

In this darkly atmospheric story, 14-year-old Stucks lives with his family in a rural region that sees visitors only in summer. In the winter, it's always just been Stucks and his best friend, Pete. As they do every year, Stucks and his summer companions gather around a fire pit to tell spooky stories, the most notorious of which surrounds the thorn-covered Pricker Boy%E2%80%94the son of a fur trapper who was ensnared in one of his father's traps. Though Stucks believes he has encountered the Pricker Boy, the others largely reject the story as a myth, until sacrificial gifts that they have left for the creature throughout the years are ominously returned. As they navigate the forest, hoping to loosen the Pricker Boy's increasing psychological hold on them, Stucks occasionally encounters Pete, whose episodes of violence, revisited in flashbacks to previous summers, still haunt his victims. While Whinnem's (Utten and Plumley) supernatural labyrinth withholds as much as it reveals, the book's final disclosures surprise and resonate, leading readers to question: which is the more frightening monster: the one that lurks in the woods or in the mind? Ages 12%E2%80%94up. (Sept.)