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“The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who can't read.”
Summary: Ms. Dreeble and Mr. Morrows have mandated ballroom dancing classes for Darkmont High's co-ed soccer team in an attempt to improve cooperation. Nothing fun ever happens at Darkmont, and Cat Peters sees forced dancing as an opportunity. When she proposes a Valentine's Dance, Cat is instantly popular with the girls on the team, especially when she promises to help them with a "love potion" to get the boys to ask them to the dance. Despite the excitement and romance in the air, Cat can't help this nagging feeling that something isn't right. The fairies are locked in Grim Hill, so it can't be magic. Or can it? This is the third book in this middle grade fantasy adventure. Given that it is set in high school, this series has potential for high interest / low readability readers.
Type of Reading: bedtime story, independent reading, read aloud book
Recommended Age: read together: 8 to 12; read yourself: 10 and up
Interest Level: 9 to 14
Reading Level: 5.5
Young Reader Reaction: Review pending.
Adult Reader Reaction: A well-paced read with enough suspense that it kept me reading. In one sitting! This is the first Grim Hill book I've read, and I didn't feel "left behind," which can happen when you jump into a series at book 3. Cat, Sookie, Jasper, and Lea are well developed characters with relationships that (sans magic) are realistic. I also enjoyed some of the fairy and Celtic lore. I actually wish the folklore was more developed in the front of the book. Although set in high school, I don't believe high school students will like this book.
Pros: Relatable characters, events, and pre-teen romance will instantly pull readers into the halls of Darkmont High in this fantasy adventure / mystery.
Cons: My quibble with the books is that this is billed as a middle grade series, yet the characters are in high school. Just as Cat likes to point out - there is a big difference between what she is allowed to do (i.e., get a job) and what her younger sister Sookie should be able / allowed to do.
Borrow or Buy: Borrow, at least. I could easily see mystery AND fantasy lovers devouring all of these books. If they like one, buy them all. Cat is a character kids can relate to, and will call a friend.
Educational Themes: Pull out the Celtic folklore to learn more about fairies, various magical beings, and magical events / thresholds. There are several relationships that are ripe for discussion at various points in the book: Sookie and her reasoning and decisions; Cat's choices (selfishness, friendship, et al); and even Cat and Sookie's relationship with their parents. Because of what happens at the end (no spoiler), there is a natural writing prompt vis-a-vis Lea and her relationship with Cat.
Notes: 2008 OLA Silver Birch Award. The publisher donated a copy of this book knowing that we would consider it for review and provide an independent, unbiased profile. This book will be given to a nonprofit to help readers in need.
Literary Categories: Fiction - adventure, fantasy, mystery, middle grade series
Date(s) Reviewed: December 2015
Other Reviews: See Critics' Reviews and reader feedback at barnesandnoble.com; and feedback at amazon.com.