Small Spaces by Katherine Arden ★★★★☆ #BookReview #BookBlog


Primary Genre(s): Middle Grade, Horror, Mystery, Fantasy
Published: 25 September 2018 by G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers
Page count: 218
My Format: eBook via NetGalley
Cover: Creepy
Pacing: Great
Ending: Satisfying
Would I recommend it: Probably
Commission Link: Buy Small Spaces

My rating: ★★★☆

Synopsis from Goodreads
After suffering a tragic loss, eleven-year-old Ollie only finds solace in books. So when she happens upon a crazed woman at the river threatening to throw a book into the water, Ollie doesn’t think–she just acts, stealing the book and running away. As she begins to read the slender volume, Ollie discovers a chilling story about a girl named Beth, the two brothers who both loved her, and a peculiar deal made with “the smiling man,” a sinister specter who grants your most tightly held wish, but only for the ultimate price.

Ollie is captivated by the tale until her school trip the next day to Smoke Hollow, a local farm with a haunting history all its own. There she stumbles upon the graves of the very people she’s been reading about. Could it be the story about the smiling man is true? Ollie doesn’t have too long to think about the answer to that. On the way home, the school bus breaks down, sending their teacher back to the farm for help. But the strange bus driver has some advice for the kids left behind in his care: “Best get moving. At nightfall they’ll come for the rest of you.” Nightfall is, indeed, fast descending when Ollie’s previously broken digital wristwatch, a keepsake reminder of better times, begins a startling countdown and delivers a terrifying message: RUN.

Only Ollie and two of her classmates heed the bus driver’s warning. As the trio head out into the woods–bordered by a field of scarecrows that seem to be watching them–the bus driver has just one final piece of advice for Ollie and her friends: “Avoid large places. Keep to small.”

And with that, a deliciously creepy and hair-raising adventure begins.

My Thoughts
I have to admit, when I noticed there was a middle grade horror book on NetGalley, I had to read it! Here are my pros and cons for Small Spaces:


  1. Lots of Dad jokes the beginning of the story. Who doesn’t love corny Dad jokes?
  2. There were some typical pre-teen issues thrown in at the beginning of the story, but I liked how the kids came together to get through this adventure.
  3. I liked how the three main characters (two girls and one boy) each had skills that helped them get out of the situation they found themselves in. It wasn’t just the boy getting the girls out of messes and it wasn’t just the girls doing it either. They each had a different set of skills that they were able to utilize and it was nice to see the kids start to respect each other’s abilities and knowledge.
  4. I thought the connection between Ollie and her mom was creative and endearing.
  5. This story is scary! I am 49 years old and parts of it were seriously creeping me out! The author creates an atmosphere that is super eerie and realistic!
  6. The ending was fantastic. While this book definitely had horror elements, it is also about healing and letting go. Ollie makes a very hard and smart decision at the end of the book and her strength to do so was amazing and mature.


  1. At the onset of the story, I found myself thinking the writing was a tad verbose. I even made a note that I didn’t think the writing style would appeal to middle grade kids. I was losing interest a little bit myself, but then the action picked up and the writing became a lot more readable.

I love a good horror novel. The author used a particular thing/entity to create a very scary situation that really affected me personally. I will admit there is something I am particularly scared of (irrationally so, I recognize) and this book happened to implement a version of it into the story. Therefore, this story probably affected me a bit more than it might others. That said, I’m not sure I would recommend this to any middle grade kids that are easily spooked!

This book, however, is much more than a just a middle grade horror novel. It is also a story about healing, grief, learning, loving, and letting go. I thought it was quite well done… even if I did get spooked!

Thank you NetGalley and G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers for a free eBook in exchange for an honest review.

If you would like to read this book and form your own opinion, please consider purchasing through this link: Buy Small Spaces. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases at no extra cost to you. Thanks!

Click here for a description of my rating scale.

(image from Goodreads)

12 thoughts on “Small Spaces by Katherine Arden ★★★★☆ #BookReview #BookBlog

  1. I am hoping to read this one soon! I am just starting to get into middle grade books! I can’t wait for this one 😊

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Middle grade books are some of my favorites! If you haven’t read them already I highly recommend The Truth As Told by Mason Buttle (Leslie Connor), The War That Saved My Life (Kimberly Brubaker Bradley) and The War I Finally Won (also Bradley). All three are phenomenal middle grade books!


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s