by Joseph Fink
Review Copy from Harper Collins
A longtime fan of Welcome to Night Vale, a fiction podcast created by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor that started in 2012, I was excited to see what kind of weird characters and creepy aura Fink could bring to the world of middle grade novels.
While I eschew anything related to the horror genre, I definitely like a good ghost story and will take a chance on the occasional Halloween story. Unlike me, Esther Gold, the thirteen-year-old protagonist of The Halloween Moon, loves all things horror and lives for Halloween. In fact, every year as she is making her three Halloween costumes (one for school, one for trick-or-treating, and one for back-up) she watches horror movies. Esther inherited her love of the holiday from her Grandma Debbie, although her parents and siblings don’t share their enthusiasm. Some pre-Halloween night drama at home requires Esther to get crafty and enlist her best friend, Augustín (who normally passes on Halloween festivities in order to spend time with his mother, an overworked tombstone engraver), to ensure a perfect night. But, this Halloween – the first full moon in nineteen years, a Halloween Moon – is far from perfect. Esther and Augustín find themselves partnering with Sasha Min, Esther’s bully, and Mr. Gabler, a neighbor and dentist intent on passing out tiny toothpaste and toothbrushes instead of candy, after realizing that all the adults in their neighborhood are in a deep sleep and all the little children have disappeared. Esther, the real world "queen" of Halloween, finds herself pitted against the Dream realm’s Queen of Halloween in a fight to save her family, friends and neighborhood.
I definitely think that it’s challenging to write a middle grade novel in the scary story genre because there are obvious limitations to how much horror can make it onto the page without spilling over into YA or adult territory, but I would like to have seen Fink do more with The Halloween Moon. I rarely review a book that I have criticisms of, but reading The Halloween Moon (and having expectations based on Fink’s other work) was frustrating. As I wrote my review, keeping in mind that not every reader has my taste or expectations, I found myself questioning the plot and characters. That said, I can envision young readers looking for a Halloween story enjoying Fink’s story.
September 30, 2021 at 01:03PM Tanya