A mad scientist and his minions seek superpowered children in this debut middle-grade novel.
This novel harkens back to a time when thrills and chills for youngsters meant man-made monsters, werewolves and their ilk—not Japanese robots, magical realms or deranged killers. As this story begins, something is going very wrong in the town of Autumn’s Hollow, Oregon. There are reports of a mysterious creature; something is leaving a faint green glow all over the place; and a local boarding school, Grimm Academy, is teeming with unusual students. Strange things are happening to seventh-grade friends Blaine, Dash and Shelley; for example, Dash is turning into a werewolf, and Blaine is becoming invisible. In addition, Grimm Academy’s creepy headmaster seems unusually interested in them. Meanwhile, a new student named Drake joins the group and soon shows that he’s also not what he seems. They soon fall into the headmaster’s evil clutches; will the kids escape, or are they doomed to spend their lives locked in a dungeon? The novel follows two main stories: One is set in modern times, and the other’s an origin story set decades ago. Overall, the book contains more references to classic horror films than you can shake a mad scientist’s beaker at; there are characters with last names like van Helsing and Harker, a mad scientist and his laboratory, and even an assistant named Igor who gets to say the immortal line, “Yes, Master,” as actor Dwight Frye did in the 1931 movie Dracula. Page is obviously a fan of this and other great Universal films of its era. The book is well-written and briskly paced; the author is clearly having fun, and the story reflects it. But as much as the novel is a throwback to yesterday, Page also adds contemporary touches, such as metallic creatures that use cutting-edge nanotechnology. The young characters also have snappy comebacks and contemporary humor that will make the story more relevant to today’s youth. The only disappointing thing is the ending, because it sets up an obligatory sequel—but even classic monsters must bow to today’s publishing realities.
Young readers will likely enjoy this nostalgic monster mash.