In this middle-grade novel, a teenage girl may have to rescue her little brother when his Halloween mask takes on a life of its own.
Now that she’s a teen, Laura is forgoing trick-or-treating in favor of this year’s Halloween party with classmates. But Mom insists she take her 7-year-old brother, Trevor, trick-or-treating, as he’s still too young to go alone. The two decide to get masks at a peculiar local shop, which recently opened at the old mall that other stores have abandoned. Doctor Blaack’s Mask Shop is jampacked with masks, and by the time Laura encounters the owner, Trevor has wandered off. She and Blaack finally discover the terrified boy donning a mouse mask that refuses to come off. Though they can’t remove the mask, Blaack assures them it will fall off precisely at midnight tomorrow—Halloween. Luckily, the next day at school is a costume day, so Trevor doesn’t stand out. But the mask not only seems to be growing, it’s also gradually taking over Trevor, talking when it wants and even directing him where it wants to go. And as it turns out, if Trevor isn’t in a specified place by midnight, the mask will stay on his face permanently. Rasnic Tem’s (Ubo, 2017, etc.) horror tale, with shades of R.L. Stine’s The Haunted Mask, is an equal blend of fun and spine-tingling episodes. Blaack, for one, is eccentric but not outright malevolent. He’s also discernible, as he tends to bray his vowels (“That’s quite all ri-ight, my dear”). Much of the humor is understated and doesn’t derail the plot. The school’s costume parade, for example, is amusing but unquestionably chaotic: “Vampires and cowboys and aliens and kitty cats stood around talking and laughing and being just generally loud and way too annoying.” In the same vein, the mask, or “mouse head,” as the narrative eventually dubs it, becomes the book’s tangible villain. Certain traits, like an impossibly long tongue, leave a lasting and unsettling impression.
A light, enjoyable horror story, with just the right amount of creepiness for younger readers.