Title: Dread Wood
Author: Jennifer Killick
Release Date: 31/3/2022
I received a free copy from Farshore Books ,via The Write Reads in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
The brand new must-read middle-grade novel from the author of super-spooky Crater Lake. Perfect for 9+ fans of R.L.Stine’s Goosebumps
It’s basically the worst school detention ever. When classmates (but not mate-mates) Hallie, Angelo, Gustav and Naira are forced to come to school on a SATURDAY, they think things can’t get much worse. But they’re wrong. Things are about to get seriously scary.
What has dragged their teacher underground? Why do the creepy caretakers keeping humming the tune to Itsy Bitsy Spider? And what horrors lurk in the shadows, getting stronger and meaner every minute . . .? Cut off from help and in danger each time they touch the ground, the gang’s only hope is to work together. But it’s no coincidence that they’re all there on detention. Someone has been watching and plotting and is out for revenge . . .
This is a hard review to write as I genuinely really enjoyed this book right up until the reveal of the Villain’s motivation. Unfortunately the motivation for the villian’s is one of my most hated tropes and one that I think is actively damaging, especially in this day and age and particularly in children’s fiction. I have written a little spoiler review bellow discussing the particular reasons I detest this particular trope and the damage it can do. Due to that I couldn’t bring myself to give it a higher rating.
Ignoring that point this is actually an enjoyable read, hence my deep disappointment, it is extremely well written and entertaining even from arachnophobes. I wouldn’t say it is as much of a horror as it has been billed but more an action adventure with a bit of scariness thrown in. The four students are dynamic and likeable characters that as we get to know them and see their friendships blossom its really endearing. There is a nice undercurrent of friendship and humour about them as well as some great hidden disability rep.
Honestly, if it wasn’t for the major red flag in the villain department this would have most likely been a 4/4.5 star read for me.
I was actually genuinely crushed and disappointed when it was revealed that the villains were doing this as they were “mad scientists”. It is such a lazy trope, but it is also a really damaging one.
Yes, I see the irony in a plot about mad scientists making this scientist mad but we live in an era where trust in science and the scientific process is becoming less and less. We are surrounded by those denying the values of vaccines, that climate change exists and the daily efforts of science.
Perpetuating the myth at scientists are separate from the general population, that they don’t know when to stop and that they become so hyper-focused on their personal goals that they don’t realise the outcomes of their work is so damaging (don’t get me started on how that can also be damaging to the neuro diverse community) . This is a children’s book that paints the use of science and genetic engineering as evil, bad, and unable to be redeemed. The fact the characters disappear into the sunset suggests the author may use them again and that really terrifies me. We have to take the messages of science is bad, used for evil schemes, that science doesn’t know when it has crossed the line and must be stopped out of such plots, as that really isn’t how science works. We should be encouraging exploration of science at all levels, of engaging with scientific method, of open and honest questioning as this is the true face of science. I know this comes across as “won’t someone think of the children” but it is really “won’t someone think of the Scientists” constantly painted as Dr Frankenstein, Dr No or Dr Evil and rarely portrayed as a human being with family, love and hobbies (that don’t involve world domination).
With such an eloquently and well constructed plot it just really disappointed me that it was all thrown away on the Scientists are evil trope.