Book Review: Skeleton Creek by Patrick Carman

Skeleton CreekSomething mysterious is happening in Skeleton Creek. Something scary. Something sinister.

Ryan came close to it … and nearly died. Now he’s trapped in his house. He can’t trust anyone – not even himself.

He is forbidden from seeing his best friend, Sarah. So while Ryan is isolated and alone, she plunges back into the mystery, putting her life on the line to get to the truth.

Ryan is desperately trying to write down the full story. And while he does, Sarah takes videos of what she finds, then sends him the links so he can watch.

Together, they discover: The past is dangerous. The present is haunted. And the future is deadly

The Snapshot Review

Here’s the Thing: This is definitely one book you shouldn’t be reading by yourself, in the dead of night, with only your computer monitor for company …

BUT: it is absolutely spine-tinglingly delicious when you do.

Ms. Bookish’s Very Quick Take: This is a fun, innovative and very suspenseful book that seamlessly marries text with video– a fabulous read!

The Full Review of Skeleton Creek

When I first started reading Skeleton Creek, by Patrick Carman, I was unsure about the interactive component of it. Every so often throughout the book, the reader is given a password to a special site where videos have been uploaded. Was it all just a gimmick? It seemed to me that stopping every now and then to watch a video on the computer was something that would break the flow of the book, an interruption more than an enhancement.

As it turns out, the video components are most certainly not interruptions, nor are they enhancements; instead, they are an integral component of the whole experience of reading Skeleton Creek. Neither text nor video are meant to stand alone: together, they create a vividly suspenseful, scary adventure for the reader.

The book is composed of Ryan McCray’s journal entries. We learn that he has recently been in the hospital – that he nearly died, in fact. We learn that his actions are now being monitored carefully by his parents, and he is forbidden to communicate with his best friend, Sarah Fincher. We watch the first video hoping for more answers to the questions that the first few journal entries have raised: What happened to Ryan? Why is he forbidden to see Sarah? Why is everyone so upset with them?

As we get drawn into the story, we also get to know Sarah better, not merely through Ryan’s words, but also through the video segments she uploads for him every night. The unfolding story is creepy and mysterious, involving phantoms, secret societies and codes. Skeleton Creek is a small town embroiled in the silence of a bitter mystery, and both the text and the videos work together to grab the reader and thrust her deep into the suspense.

Reading this and watching the videos at night, which is what I did, was seriously spooky – my office desk faces a curtainless window, and I kept sneaking peaks outside, half expecting to see a ghostly face pressed against the glass. And if you keep your Web browser on Sarah’s site after you’ve finished each video, your reading will be accompanied by suitably creepy music, too.

While I normally dislike it when protagonists do something you just know they shouldn’t be doing, in this case there’s enough of a credible reason for them to do so. Ryan and Sarah’s curiosity is contagious – I wanted to find out exactly what was going on, too.

There was a minor inconsistency in my copy of the book, but since I was reading from an ARC, which is an uncorrected copy of the proofs, it may not actually be an inconsistency that appears in the final published book. It was also quite minor; I flipped back to check, confirmed my suspicion that it was an inconsistency, and then easily dived back into the story.

I also didn’t get an allusion to the library and the librarian, Gladys, that appears near the end of the book; this might be just me missing something, or it might be due to the fact that I was reading an ARC. Again, not getting the allusion was a minor thing and didn’t take away from my overall enjoyment of Skeleton Creek.

And it was very definitely an enjoyable experience. It was scary, in that fun-to-be-scared way. I found myself holding my breath several times during the videos, and the last video segment had me literally on the edge of my seat.

I myself would have preferred a different kind of ending, but I suspect that’s only because of the type of reader I am: I like things to be tied up nicely and neatly at the end, with answers provided for all the questions that have come up. The ending in Skeleton Creek is a real cliffhanger, which is probably part of the fun of a book like this. The way Carman has set the plot up, you’re almost certain you know how things turn out – but you can’t be absolutely sure.

This book is meant for grades 5 and up, and most kids who like a spooky mystery will most likely be very pleased with it. And if you know a reluctant reader who prefers movies to books, this is the book that just might get him or her interested in reading. The video portions of the book are very effective, and combined with the text, the reader is in for an exciting and creepy experience. I probably would have rated it Wonderful if it weren’t for the cliffhanger ending (and as I mentioned, that’s a personal preference). As it is, it is most definitely a Good Read Plus in my books.

One thing is certain: I am definitely looking forward to more reading experiences in which the text is combined so well with online video. Both books and movies can be very effective at getting a person into a story; together, as in Skeleton Creek, these two elements pack a very potent, powerful punch. Ms. Bookish’s Rating: Good Read Plus ?

Related Links and Fun Stuff

Here’s the trailer for Skeleton Creek, which will give you an idea of the wonderfully creepy quality of the video segments of the book:



And in this video, author Patrick Carman talks about what he was envisioning in writing the book:


You can read an excerpt here.

But that’s not all! Another mystery is unfolding at the blog Skeleton Creek is Real – there are links to other intriguing sites, as well as a forum. (You might want to start at the very beginning of the blog posts first.) And if you’ve got a reluctant reader on your list, send him or her here to poke around; you might end up hearing a request for the book!

And there actually is a real Skeleton Creek, in Australia!

More About The Author and The Book

Patrick Carman and his video blog.

Where to buy Skeleton Creek:

U.S. (Amazon.com)

Canada (Chapters)

UK (Amazon.co.uk)

Title: Skeleton Creek
Author: Patrick Carman
Publisher: Scholastic
Genre: Children’s fiction – Ghost story
Format and length: Hardcover, 192 pages
Release date: February 10, 2009

12 thoughts on “Book Review: Skeleton Creek by Patrick Carman

  1. Pingback: Saturday Review of Books: February 7, 2009 at Semicolon

  2. Chelsey

    does anyone know if there will be a book four? i just got done reading three and it feels so much like there will be and i think it would be called the crow, please tell me if you know! thanks bye!

    Reply

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