In DeCamp’s debut middle-grade fantasy thriller, two small-town boys searching for their abducted friend get a helping hand from beings from another dimension.
In the quiet Indiana town of Cutters Notch, 12-year-olds Josh Gillis and Danny Flannery are best friends with a slightly older teenage tomboy, Hope Spencer. The trio spends a September day playing basketball, oblivious that they’re being closely watched. After they go their separate ways, only Josh and Danny make it home. Hope’s frantic mother, Maggie Spencer, gets in touch with the cops, starting with her state-trooper neighbor, Rick Anders, and everyone assumes the worst when they find Hope’s abandoned phone and basketball. Maggie’s worried that her abusive ex-husband is responsible for Hope’s disappearance even though he’s supposed to be in jail. Josh and Danny, meanwhile, suspect creepy old neighbor Willie Robbins to be the kidnapper. Cops and parents impede the boys’ attempts to take part in the search, but the two get assistance from an unlikely source: three beings named Gavin, Gronek, and Smakal from the Arboreal Realm. They invite Josh and Danny to travel into their dimension (via something called “the shimmer”) so that they’ll have the opportunity to rescue Hope from someone—or something—monstrous. DeCamp’s novel centers on the story’s thriller qualities in scenes of Hope in captivity, looking for a means of escape. The otherworldly aspects of the tale, meanwhile, are less distinctive; Gavin and his two companions, for example, remain mysterious, as many questions about their back story and home realm remain unanswered at the end of the story. The tension is high throughout, though, thanks to menacing and relentless villains; it’s also sprinkled with forbidding, dark-fantasy prose: “all was now silent in the woods”; “The bright orb had followed its course into the western sky.” The story will surely appeal to younger readers (the instances of violence are never over-the-top), and it manages quite a few surprises, such as the revelation of the abductors’ twisted plan. The ending hints at more in store for the people of Cutters Notch.
An often diverting tale that bubbles with suspense.