cover image Harvest House

Harvest House

Cynthia Leitich Smith. Candlewick, $19.99 (320p) ISBN 978-1-53-621860-2

High school sophomore Hughie Wolfe, a citizen of the Muscogee Nation, feels adrift after his school’s fall theater production, in which he expected to get the lead role, is canceled due to budget cuts. In lieu of pursuing the stage, he volunteers as an actor at a haunted house fundraiser located at a rural crossroads that is rumored to be beset by the ghost of an “Indian maiden.” What Hughie thought would be a lighthearted Halloween attraction instead feels like a cruel joke when he’s cast as an “Indian ghost” and learns that the organizer intends to use insensitive characterizations of Indigenous persons to populate a “haunted Indian burial ground” setting (“They’re dancing around, making goofy war whoops, chasing people,” Hughie reports). Alternating chapters, meanwhile, feature eerie first-person narration by Celeste, the Native woman haunting the crossroads. When a video purportedly depicting Celeste’s attempts to protect brown girls from a mysterious “bad man” goes viral, Hughie’s Kansas town plunges into chaos. Using short, propulsive chapters, Smith (Hearts Unbroken), a member of the Muscogee Nation, intertwines thoughtful conversation surrounding the racism faced by Indigenous teenagers with a convincing ghost story to craft a spine-tingling, edge-of-the-seat chiller. An author’s note and glossary conclude. Ages 12–up. Agent: Ginger Knowlton, Curtis Brown. (Apr.)