cover image Last Laugh

Last Laugh

K.R. Alexander. Scholastic, $7.99 paper (176p) ISBN 978-1-339-01215-5

During a visit with his siblings to their maximalist grandmother’s house, 12-year-old Victor plays a prank on his coulrophobe older sister Sarah by removing one of the myriad creepy clown dolls from his grandmother’s bedroom and hiding it in Sarah’s room for her to find. The joke fails to get a reaction when the clown mysteriously disappears, and instead Victor catches himself seeing the unsettling figure around every corner. As the clown sightings worsen, a jumpy and exhausted Victor enlists his brainy younger sister Genevieve and best friend Gareth to suss out the cause of the almost-encounters and whether it’s a revenge ploy from Sarah. When Grandma is found unresponsive in her now suddenly clown-free bedroom, and a disembodied voice begins taunting Victor with dire threats, he must solve the disturbing mystery behind the stalker clowns before anyone else is affected. Tedious repetition occasionally stymies forward momentum. Still, Alexander (Gallowgate) imbues this succinct thriller with appropriately eerie atmosphere, presenting a tale of pint-sized terrors via squirm-inducing clown doll scenes that effectively ratchet up the tension. Victor is described as having “dark olive skin,” and Gareth is of Filipino descent. Ages 8–12. Agent: Brent Taylor, Triada US. (Jan.) ,/em>