This review contains no spoilers.
ZACK, HIS DAD, and new stepmother have just moved back to his father’s hometown, not knowing that their new house has a dark history. Fifty years ago, a crazed killer caused an accident at the nearby crossroads that took 40 innocent lives. He died when his car hit a tree in a fiery crash, and his malevolent spirit has inhabited the tree ever since. During a huge storm, lightning hits the tree, releasing the spirit, who decides his evil spree isn’t over . . . and Zack is directly in his sights.
I’m not usually a fan of the horror genre. I’m the easiest person in the world to scare (but don’t try because I will harm you), but I really love this book. Yes it’s about ghosts and yes it can be terrifying at times, but overall it’s just a really funny story about a boy and his family trying to move on from the death of Zack’s mother and his father’s new marriage.
I would never have picked this up if I hadn’t been required to read it for a class in sixth grade (ah yes, the days of reading aloud in class. I’m so glad that’s over!). But I’m very grateful that I was made to read it because it’s had such an impact on me.
All of the characters are really great. There is no evil-stepmother trope in this book, which is another great thing about it. Judy, his new step-mom, is actually one of the best parts of the book. She’s a children’s author who is incredibly kind to her new stepson, and genuinely wants the best for her new family. Zack’s mother doesn’t have much of a role, but I can tell you I didn’t like her.
The POV jumps around a lot, but that only adds to the suspense and the general enjoyment of the book. At first all the the POVs seem completely disconnected – a divorced man, an old woman, a nurse, Zack, – but by the end of the book they all come together and you realize that they’ve been telling the same story the whole time.
Chris Grabenstein is one of the authors I’ve had the pleasure of meeting, and my copy of the book is autographed. If he’s ever near you at an event – he came to my local Children’s Festival of Reading – then you really ought to stop by and listen to him speak.
In my Book Sacrifice Tag, I expressed an opinion about him that I stick to: he is a great man but he would benefit from a course in forensics. Here’s why, copied straight from my post:
In one of the later books, someone is murdered by shooting him in the head and then to cover their crime they put him in his car, jam the accelerator, and slam it into a tree so it looks like a car crash. That’s not how forensics work. Even if the bullet melted (as the character said it would) there would be signs of bullet trauma that the fire from the engine exploding wouldn’t cover. I met Mr. Grabenstein (fantastic man!) in person and I had to bite my tongue not to tell him this.
Day 3 of March's #bookphotochallenge — #celineannajillmarch16 is 'signed books' — #booksandcupcakes is 'quote' for all my lovely inscriptions — #bookishmarch16 is 'fav female author' and that's either Ms. Sepetys or Ms. Levine #betweenshadesofgray #rutasepetys #ataleoftwocastles #gailcarsonlevine #fannyanddice #Rebeccamcfarlandkyle #thecrossroads #chrisgrabenstein #heartsthatsurvive #yvonnelehman #signedbook #signedbooks #autographedbook #biblophile #booklove #booklr #instabook #bookstagram
The Rest of the Series
I have read the rest of the series, and I will review it on here at some point, however, I do have to forewarn you that none of them are quite as good as the first one. Read them by all means, but please be prepared to be saddened and a little disappointed. Or if Zack’s mother interests you (no spoilers, just a tiny ear worm).
I took this, as I did with most of my featured images. It’s of my copy of the book (very well worn because I’ve read it more than once), and the “Crowd Favorite” award I got for my Marie Antoinette Costume.
I’d reccomend this book for any fans of horror. It won’t be the scariest thing you’ve ever read, but I highly doubt you’ll regret reading it. Fans of comedy should check this out too, as I said before it’s hilariously funny. Even if you don’t like horror or don’t usually read it (or it terrifies you like it does me), you should still check this out.
I believe it is technically middle grade, but older readers will love it too (I still love it, my mom loves it, the sixth grade english teacher who introduced me to it loves it).