What happens when invisible friends won’t leave you alone?
It’s three weeks into the school year, and Josh Duncan is prepared for his first day of fifth grade after his family’s move, armed with his inhaler and a new raincoat for the perpetually wet Pacific Northwest weather. Josh tells himself it won’t be like the first day of kindergarten, when he got an awkward nickname and saw Big Brother for the first time. Yet Big Brother is there, speaking in Josh’s ear despite the distance from his old backyard, where his parents made him bury a rock with Big Brother’s name on it. Meanwhile, Lucas Hernandez isn’t sure what’s up with the new kid, but he’s dealing with his own recently reappeared apparition: Maxie Moon. If Lucas does this one thing for Maxie, she tells him, she’ll leave him alone for good. Lucas’ name and some casually dropped Spanish signals his distinction from his assumed-white classmates, and Josh, who is white, displays symptoms of social anxiety. Blurring the line between imaginary friends and ghosts, Nickerson creates an atmospheric narrative that turns typically mundane activities, like riding a bike around the neighborhood, into existential ponderings on borderlines and time. Readers can dive in and get lost in ambiguous, creepy elements that will prepare them for the horror of Stephen King.
Strange and genuinely introspective. (Fiction. 8-12)