Review: Small Spaces by Katherine Arden


Rating: ☆☆☆☆
Title: Small Spaces
Author: Katherine Arden
Series: Small Spaces #1
Genre: Paranormal
Audience: Middle Grade
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Renee Dorian
Length: 6 hours (218 pages)
Publisher: Listening Library; G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers
Release Date: September 25, 2018
Source: Library (Libby app)
Recommended for fans of: City of Ghosts, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark


New York Times bestselling adult author of The Bear and the Nightingale makes her middle grade debut with a creepy, spellbinding ghost story destined to become a classic.

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.


Small Spaces is a very spooky story about an eleven-year-old on a field trip gone wrong. It is super creepy for a middle grade read.

I really liked the main character Ollie and the depth of her emotional journey as she struggles with the recent loss of her mom. She isolated herself and retreated into books to cope with her pain, but she develops new friendships through this terrifying experience. Ollie was clever and brave as she fought to save her classmates and not just herself, showing a lot of growth throughout the story.

This story had so many creepy touches that gave me chills. The smiling man. the bus driver. The scarecrows. The book. Ollie’s watch. I have really been enjoying middle grade ghost stories this spooky season that remind me of watching Are You Afraid of the Dark? or telling scary stories at slumber parties. This is a quick read, especially on audio, and I recommend it for young readers and older readers looking for nostalgic scares.

Author: Caroline | Carolibrary

Hello! I’m Caroline! I am a teacher, a book lover, and a nerd. My passions include reading, writing, bookstagram, barre & yoga, baking, binging TV shows, and Star Wars. I love stories in all formats because they can transport you to a different world while helping you understand the world around you. I have always found books to be a particularly magical source of imagination.

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