cover image The Smashed Man of Dread End

The Smashed Man of Dread End

J.W. Ocker. HarperCollins, $16.99 (304p) ISBN 978-0-06-299052-5

When 13-year-old Noelle “Noe” Wiley’s cued-white family moves to a new home across town, the first thing she notices is the ominous hand-altered sign marking their cul-de-sac “Dread End.” She pays it little heed, however, until some neighborhood kids tell her, “Don’t go into the basement of your house at night.” And when Noe awakens from a sleepwalking episode in the basement, she discovers a terrifying two-dimensional figure, invisible to adults, that silently begins oozing out of the subterranean wall’s cracks each time a child arrives to witness it. When Noe—whose sleepwalking once ended in her inadvertently hurting a friend—learns that her sister, three-year-old Len, has the same condition, she fears for their safety should they accidentally awaken in the basement. Finding that the siblings’ resourceful, resilient neighbors also live in fear of the figure, following an incident with the previous owners of Noe’s house, the kids collaborate to stop him before he can escape from the wall. Ocker (Death and Douglas) slowly builds the tension and atmosphere with this eerie tale, his villain a constant, unsettling presence, and the unawareness of well-meaning adults furthering the sense of alienation and danger. While the metaphysics of the story feel a little loosely defined at times, readers of this effectively spine-tingling piece of horror will find it hard to ignore their own dark corners. Ages 8–12. [em]Agent: Alex Slater, Trident Media Group. (Aug.) [/em]