From School Library Journal
Grade 6 Up—Ryan McCray and Sarah Fincher wonder how Skeleton Creek, OR, received its name. Research takes them on a nighttime expedition to a mechanical dredge, where Ryan breaks his leg. The teens think the dredge is haunted by Joe Bush, a miner killed there. The book is interspersed with Sarah's videos, which can be accessed on the Internet. The mystery remains to be solved; sequels are guaranteed. Plot weaknesses mitigate the teen appeal of the Internet tie-in concept. The book's central flaw: it is not scary. Ryan's narration should provide creepy immediacy, but his constant insistence that he is petrified never plays out in the story. The book ramps up and peters out, without a climax or resolution of the mystery. The repetitive musings hold the pace to a slow walk, and Carman relies on contrivance to keep adults at bay. Another reason it lags is the lack of synergy between Ryan and Sarah, even though they are supposedly best friends. They communicate only via electronic means (their parents have forbidden their friendship), and their individual findings don't dovetail into one coherent story line. Even if one stops to watch Sarah's videos, there seem to be missing pieces of information that make the plot hard to follow. The actual telling is a sad departure from the intriguing premise.—Caitlin Augusta, The Darien Library, CT
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A gimmick? You betcha. But given the novelty and the advertising blast this novel with accompanying Web videos is getting, this is something kids will want. And Carman’s accessible, journal-type text, full of mystery and foreshadowing, pulls from the outset. Teenage Ryan records the circumstances that landed him with a broken leg, forever—according to his parents—parted from his partner in mischief, Sarah Fincher. But parental edicts mean little in the face of a true mystery in the teens’ boring town, so the two use technology to keep in touch: while Ryan journals and frets, Sarah films her adventures, references to which appear periodically in the journal along with the address of a Web site where they can be viewed. With an appropriately homemade look, the nicely choreographed videos definitely build atmosphere, but for most of the novel, readers won’t miss vital clues if a computer isn’t close at hand. It’s the ending that really annoys: the last page of the journal leads to a video that promises answers—but not until May 2009. A spoiler? Not quite, but certainly something book purchasers should know about. Grades 5-8. --Stephanie Zvirin
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