cover image Vivian Van Tassel and the Secret of Midnight Lake

Vivian Van Tassel and the Secret of Midnight Lake

Michael Witwer. Aladdin, $18.99 (368p) ISBN 978-1-6659-1819-0

Dungeons & Dragons expert Witwer draws inspiration from the tabletop RPG to craft an exciting adventure. Twelve-year-old Vivian Van Tassel’s hot temper has gotten her into trouble time and again. It’s even led to her removal from fencing class, one of her only outlets for her emotions. But worst of all, she believes that her feelings—and their resultant emotional blowout—are the reason for her mother’s tragic accidental death. After her journalist father gets a new job and moves the family to her mother’s hometown in Midnight Lake, Wis., Vivian finds herself making friends for the first time while playing Beasts & Battlements with fellow classmates, even as she contends with bullies and struggles to manage her anger and guilt. An assignment about the school’s defunct sanitarium brings with it public recognition that a century earlier, many people considered mentally ill described seeing monsters like those featured in B&B, driving Vivian to dig deeper into a dangerous mystery. Abundant Harry Potter references and Vivian’s distant third-person perspective bog down the straightforward plot, and standard character archetypes make this a familiar jaunt for fans of fantasy fare. Vivian reads as white. Ages 8–12. Agent: Jacques de Spoelberch, J. de S. Assoc. (Aug.)