14 year olds Stuck and Pete are best friends who live on the shores of a glacier-lake in New England, surrounded by a dense, dark wood. Every summer their lake gets an influx of summer visitors and their friends from the city come back for another season. But this year is different – the kids are older now, their relationships are changing, and the terror in the woods that’s haunted them in the past has crossed over into their world.
As part of their annual summer activities the gang of friends spend most nights around the campfire, telling ever more complicated and scary versions of the story about the Pricker Boy. A local boy, the son of a trapper, was bullied by the town kids and then lost in the woods, ages ago, victim to one of his father’s traps, until the pricker bushes and dark woods themselves claimed him. The Pricker Boy takes his revenge on any kids he finds alone in the woods, hunting them relentlessly until he can steal them away.
On the surface, The Pricker Boy is a psychological thriller, artfully developed from the fireside horror stories kids love to tell on summer camping trips. The dark, creepy woods lend themselves perfectly to overactive imaginations (many times it felt akin to The Blair Witch Project), and the tone that author Reade Scott Whinnem sets, along with the scary action sequences, makes for a deliciously frightening ghost story. But there’s a lot more going on in this book that just a scary woods-legend. Stuck and the other kids are having to face the fact that real life is more unsettling and unknowable than the ghost stories they’ve used to frighten themselves for years. Whinnem creates a multi-layered story that explores how kids deal with fear, pain, loss, anger, and friendship, that will draw readers in with its scary premise and leave them thinking long after the last marshmallow has been toasted.
- Posted by Cori