This middle-grade book was a great treat to read! Somewhere on the internet I read, "if you're a fan of R. L. Stine, this is the book for you!" or something to that effect. Well, I have to say, I loved R. L. Stine (This was back before the Goosebumps books--Wrong Number, Hit and Run, Beach House) and Christopher Pike (Weekend, Fall into Darkness, Last Act) when I was in middle school. I couldn't get enough of their creepy books.
Although, the main character in The Crossroads was a bit younger at age 11 (most of the above books were about high school age kids if I remember correctly), this book did remind me a bit of Stein and Pike as I couldn't put it down. Crossroads starts with Zack moving to a small town in Connecticut with his father and new stepmother. While his father is very busy with work, Zack forms a bond with his stepmother, Judy and finds a young friend, Davy to help him while away the summer days. The town is full of characters from mean old Gerda Spratling who travels to a big tree every Monday morning to pay her respects to the long-dead love of her life, to the very literal librarian Mrs. Emerson. There are many ghost stories and local legends in this town. Judy and Zack soon find out that many of the stories are true. And get down to the bottom of understanding the fifty-year old legend that haunts the crossroad of County Road 13 and Connecticut State Highway 31. The book opens with:
Have you ever seen a face hidden in the bark of a tree and known that
the man trapped inside wanted to hurt you? That's what Zack Jennings had always wanted to ask his father.....
The tree and its spirit are central to this book and Grabenstein has interconnected many smaller stories to a larger one with many of the characters somehow linked through generations to one incident that happened fifty years earlier at the crossroads of those two roads. I was surprised when I checked the LibraryThing reviews for this book. It only received an 3.65 average out of 5 stars. There were only three reviews. The complaints claimed the book to be too dark for the reader age range (9-12) because so many people were killed and that the protagonist was a bit young for the story at age 11. I admit that maybe 9 or 10 is a bit young for the story depending on your child, but even Harry Potter was very dark and many people were killed in those books. So I think you just need to judge a book by your child's interests and whether they can handle the material.
I really enjoyed how the different characters' lives were all somehow linked to the accident 50 years earlier and brought them all together. And this was an incredibly fast read. I read it in a day and I would have read it in half a day if I didn't have a silly family picnic cutting into my reading time. ;-) I highly recommend this book (gave it 5 stars) and I look forward to more youth books from Grabenstein. If you're interested, he has also written several adult mysteries. You can find out more at the author's website: www.chrisgrabenstein.com.
I found this book first at Jen Robinson's Book Page and here are two other reviews: Lesa from Lesa's Book Critques and Melissa at Blogging for a Good Book.