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VACANCY by K.R. Alexander


by K.R. Alexander

Pub Date: Nov. 2nd, 2021
ISBN: 978-1-338-70215-6
Publisher: Scholastic

Does anyone who volunteers to spend a night in a derelict haunted hotel on a dare deserve what they get?

“The hotel is hungry. And we aren’t leaving here until it’s fed.” In what reads like a determined effort to check off every trope of the genre, Alexander sends new arrival Jasmine, along with two friends and several dozen other classmates, to the long-abandoned Carlisle Hotel for the annual seventh grade Dare—touching off a night of terror presided over by the leering, autocratic Grand Dame and complete with sudden gusts and blackouts, spectral visions, evil reflections in mirrors, skeletons, a giant spider, gravity reversals, tides of oily black sludge sucking screaming middle schoolers down the drain, and so much more. (No gore, though, aside from a few perfunctory drops of blood from one small scratch.) The author saves a twist for the end, and as inducement to read alone or aloud in the dark by flashlight, both his language and the typography crank up the melodrama: “He walks toward us, past the mirror, and I see it— / a pale white face in the reflection, / a gaunt, skeletal grimace, / with sharpened teeth / and hollow black eyes, staring at him / with its mouth / wide / open / in a scream….” Jasmine presents White; her closest friends are Rohan, whose name cues him as South Asian, and Mira, who has dark skin.

Light on gore and corpses; otherwise a full-bore, uncomplicated shriekfest.

(Horror. 10-13)