Creeping, invasive, blue-glowing mushrooms threaten to destroy a Maine town unless the intrepid hero, eighth-grader Eric, can fend them off.
Tanglewood, a town only vaguely depicted and not particularly evocative of Maine, may have been destroyed by eerie mushrooms once before, in the Colonial period—at least if the writings of a now-dead sci-fi author can be believed. With his parents’ marriage on shaky ground and his clever 9-year-old brother Brian providing lots of challenges, Eric is headed for trouble. It comes first in a teasing incident with his fellow football-team members that gets out of hand, then when he aids a girl, Mandy, who has run away from the private girls’ reform school his mother oversees, making it inevitable that he’ll run afoul of the police. Meanwhile, the mushrooms keep spreading, invading and undermining homes, streets and the local school, a looming threat adults seem oblivious to—perhaps because they caught a glimpse of the book’s disappointing, almost silly cover art. Eric’s banter with friends and his younger brother, his inner dialogue as he analyzes his own behavior and his relationship with his parents all ring nicely true, but with the focus more on his interactions, the potential scariness of the evil mushrooms is never fully realized.A biological thriller/mystery with a significant level of heart but insufficient horror. (Mystery. 10-14)