Employing sensory details and potent imagery, Lesperance (The Wide Starlight) constructs a fanciful world in which dreams and nightmares are a commodity, created, bought, and sold. Desperate to help her older sister, Hallie, who’s in a coma following an accident, 12-year-old Maren Partridge breaks her dream-making family’s number one rule—no giving dreams without the receiver’s consent—by sneaking Hallie a pleasant one on her birthday. Maren is blackmailed for the act by sinister Ms. Malo, an insect-wielding enigma with a “hearty appetite” for nightmares: in exchange for an escalating supply of horrifying dreams and forbidden ingredients, she’ll keep Maren’s secret to herself. As the inhabitants of whimsically magic-infused Rockpool Bay begin suffering odd mishaps, Maren struggles to escape her tormentor’s demands. But when her grandmother is kidnapped, it’s up to Maren and her former best friend, Amos, to rescue Gran-Gran and thwart Malo’s scheme. Lesperance crafts a resourceful heroine whose loyalty forces her to confront a difficult situation and come out stronger. She also folds a satisfying sense of wonder into the quaint town, balanced with a chilling element of darkness. Ages 8–14. Agent: Kathleen Rushall, Andrea Brown Literary. (Jan.)
"A hair-raising, nontraditional horror novel with fantastical elements. Will have universal appeal for children who don't mind a scare." - School Library Journal
"A spine-tingling adventure." - Kirkus Reviews
"This poignant story blending fantasy and horror takes place in a colorful setting, a town where magic is part of the reality." - Jean Westmoore, The Buffalo News
"Lesperance has crafted a wonderfully original world... The delightfully descriptive text sets a cozy scene, but there is also real danger and a deliciously disconcerting villain. There is magic and mayhem, horror and hope, and the thread of family and friendship weaving it all together." - Booklist, STARRED Review
"Readers who loved Astrid Law's Savvy series or Shelby Bach's The Ever Afters series will surely love Maren and her dreams to save the world." - Rebecca Williams, The Portland Book Review
"[An] absorbing tale... Maren is a memorably flawed and earnest protagonist." - The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
"Lesperance crafts a resourceful heroine whose loyalty forces her to confront a difficult situation and come out stronger. She also folds a satisfying sense of wonder into the quaint town, balanced with a chilling element of darkness." - Publishers Weekly
Gr 3–8—Disaster strikes the magical New England town of Rockpool Bay. Maren Partridge, described as having pink and green braids, shares her family's talent for dreammaking but lives a nightmare. Her older sister Hallie, blond with freckles, is in a coma, and Maren's parents can't pay the medical bills. Maren promises her Gran-Gran Lishta she will follow the family's dream contract and not give a dream without consent, but petrified over her sister's prognosis, Maren sneaks Hallie healing dreams. Observed by the malicious, dark-haired Ms. Malo, Maren is blackmailed into making nightmares. Matters worsen when Malo traps Maren, her curly haired friend Amos, and her Gran-Gran in an abandoned theater. Malo tortures them with nightmares in an elaborate revenge plot on Rockpool Bay. Maren's ingenuity and a French-speaking parrot save the day. What begins as a sweet fantasy conceit grows into an intense adventure with vivid horror elements. Lesperance fully develops Maren's gut-wrenching emotions, from her fear for her sister and her family's finances, to violating her Gran-Gran's trust, to the dread of exposure, to the absolute terror of being held captive under constant threat of anaphylactic shock (Maren is allergic to bees, and Malo surrounds her with magical ones). The detailed descriptions of Rockpool Bay's safe, nurturing magic contrast with Malo's creeping dream-induced evil. The happy ending may be pat, but readers will appreciate some joy after going through the wringer. None of the characters have race or skin tone described. VERDICT A hair-raising, nontraditional horror novel with fantastical elements. Will have universal appeal for children who don't mind a scare.—Caitlin Augusta, Stratford Lib. Assoc., CT
Something is rotten in magical Rockpool Bay.
Some residents of Rockpool Bay are born with specific magic that helps them with their businesses, such as the pharmacy with its charmed medicines and Maren’s grandmother Lishta’s dream shop, where Maren is learning to make both healing dreams and intense nightmares. Maren first meets Ms. Malo at the dream shop, where she demands to be sold 12 nightmares despite Lishta’s limit of three, never to be administered to others without consent. Unfortunately, Maren herself breaks the rule, giving her sister, Hallie, a dream in an effort to wake her from her coma. Ms. Malo catches Maren and threatens to expose her if Maren doesn’t supply her with nightmares. Maren uneasily acquiesces but notices that some magic-imbued shops are closing. She believes it’s Ms. Malo’s doing, but what is her motive? The buildup is slow and creepy, and sinister events and changes in the town add to the threatening atmosphere. More anxiety-provoking is Maren’s dilemma: tell the truth and destroy her family or aid Ms. Malo and destroy Rockpool Bay? The author skillfully ratchets up the tension when Lishta, Maren, and her friend are captured by Ms. Malo. It takes all of Maren’s knowledge and courage to stage their rescue as she grows and learns that the love of friends and family is the best magic of all. Characters default to White.
A spine-tingling adventure. (Fantasy. 8-12)