“The Collector” by K. R. Alexander

Title: The Collector

Author: K. R. Alexander

Publication Year: 2018

The Plot: During the summer, Josie and her younger sister Anna move with their mom from Chicago out to the countryside. They move into a large house with their Grandmother Jeannie whose health is failing. Their grandmother soon warns the girls not to go into the woods because a mysterious presence named ‘Beryl’ lives there. Mom explains that grandmother Jeannie is making stories up because her thinking is impaired. At night the girls hear strange sounds coming from the woods and wonder if their grandmother’s stories are true?

My Take: The strength of this story lies in its narrative momentum. Author K. R. Alexander chooses to stick tightly to the plot and not give extra exposition or characterization. Readers looking for world building or fully developed characters will be disappointed, but those wanting a snappy ghost story with some good scares will be pleased. Recommended to any middle grade readers who want a spooky story.

One Interesting Note About The Author: According to his website, K. R. Alexander has traveled the world and even spent time as a performance circus artist with a focus on aerial and trapeze skills. He has recently joined Ecologi, an organization that offsets carbon emissions, and pledged to plant 500 trees for every book that he publishes.

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

 The monster comes just after midnight for thirteen year old Connor O’Malley.  The yew tree in the church yard across from his house folds itself into the shape of a large man and lowers its eye to Connor’s window.  It demands his attention.

But that isn’t the scariest thing in Connor’s life right now: his mother is dying from cancer.  She scarcely has the strength to make it out of bed these days and the new treatments don’t seem to be working.  His grandmother, abrupt and not inclined towards sweetness, has begun visiting more frequently to help out and make Connor’s days more unbearable.  His father, who lives in America, has also made plans to come see him through this difficult time.

Things are also going terribly at school.  The local bullies, sensing his sorrow, have made a target of him.  But perhaps their attention is almost better than being ignored by the rest of his classmates.

And then there is the monster.  It says that it will tell him 3 tales.  And then Connor must tell it the 4th.  These stories, through their confusion and harsh realities, disrupt him even further and put him face to face with his most dreaded nightmare of all.

I loved this book, but felt that it was really an adult novel.  It wasn’t the language or content, but rather the theme of death and sorrow that makes it more inclined towards older readers.  This is a sad tale, but I found it cathartic.

Ages 13+ Young Adult Fiction