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“I believe we are in danger. We cannot leave. We don’t have light, we don’t have heat, and the ghost upstairs is strong, and will only grow stronger as the sun sets. I do not know what she wants. Are you willing to bet that she’s harmless,” Mr. Voland. –Dead Voices
Small Spaces Quartet #2
by Katherine Arden
Ollie, Brian, and Coco have had their fill of frightening experiences. After their narrow escape from the smiling man and his sinister scarecrows during their class field trip last fall, they are ready for some fun. Skiing at Mount Hemlock sounds promising, but their enthusiasm quickly dims as a snowstorm traps them at the loge with only their parents and Mr. Voland, a mysterious ghost hunter, for company.
Strange things start happening. Coco is seeing shadowy figures, Ollie is having nightmares about frostbitten girls, and Brian is positive that the stuffed bear in the lobby was on its hind legs when they arrived—not on all four.
Their fun-filled trip is quickly turning into another terrifying encounter with another dimension. There are ghosts at Mount Hemlock and their voices are demanding to be heard, but the price of listening may be too high.
In this haunting follow-up to Small Spaces, Ollie, Coco, and Brian must rely on their friendship and sharp minds if they are to survive their next harrowing adventure. Readers who are ready to be frightened will enjoy seeing Ollie and her friends go up against the smiling man one more time. However, Dead Voices increases the fear factor because both the living and the dead use deception to try to lure the children into Mother Hemlock’s frosty arms.
Unlike Small Spaces, Dead Voices focuses more on Coco’s point of view. While Ollie plays a main role in the story, Brian disappears early on, leaving Coco responsible for saving Ollie. This shift gives the book a new perspective and allows the reader to see how Coco is often misjudged because of her small size. Because Coco appears childlike, she is underestimated. However, she is a master at chess, which has taught her to look at a problem from many angles. It is this skill that allows Coco to beat the smiling man and free Ollie.
In the first book of the Small Spaces Quartet, Ollie and her friends spent most of their time running from danger. However, Dead Voices increases the suspense by increasing the danger. In addition, the ghosts are more frightening both in appearance and in their actions. Ollie meets a ghost, who appears to be friendly and helpful, but instead leads her into a trap. And when the smiling man makes an appearance, the reader learns that he is capable of completely changing his appearance, which allows him to disguise himself and trick Ollie into being trapped behind the mirror. To make matters worse, the smiling man puts all the other adults into an unwakeable sleep, thus making the kids rely on themselves.
Dead Voices is an action-packed ghost story that includes mystery, ghosts, and a deceptive villain that readers will love to hate. The simple plot leads readers into a creepy world where Mother Hemlock wants to make Ollie sleep forever. Dead Voices is perfect for middle-grade readers who want to be frightened without the graphic images that often appear in YA books. Readers who enjoy scary stories should also read Nightbooks by J.A. White and The Forgotten Girl by India Hill Brown
- Ollie and her friends meet a ghost named Gretel. While alive, Gretel would wander the orphanage where she lived. One day, Mother Hemlock, “hauled her upstairs, and locked the girl in a closet. . . Gretel was afraid of the dark. She screamed and screamed, but no one came. . . the little girl had died of fright.” Throughout the story, Gretel says she is looking for her bones.
- After Gretel died, Mother Hemlock “threw herself out the attic window in remorse.”
- Mother Hemlock grabs Ollie who “thrashed in the thing’s grip, head-butted her, bit her horrible tasting arm, let her legs go limp so that she was dragged across the floor. . . Ollie felt panic starting to choke her.”
- In order to get away from Mother Hemlock, Ollie lunged “with all her strength, and grabbed a fistful of hot coals. She shoved them up at Mother Hemlock’s grayish, furious face. Mother Hemlock fell back, smoldering, screeching.” Ollie escapes and runs to hide.
- A dead bear comes alive and chases Ollie. “As Ollie watched, frozen, the dead bear fell to all fours. Licked its chops. Then, creaking, the dead bear charged. . . [Ollie] raced through the dining room. The footsteps of the dead bear sounded close behind her, and she could smell its reek: a combination of dust and formaldehyde.” Later, the bear chases Ollie again.
- Dead coyotes come alive and chase Brian and Coco. Brian pulls Coco “up the stairs just as howls broke out from every part of the lobby and the shadows seemed, all at once to leap from the stairwell. . . There was a louder clatter of dog nails as dead paws slipped on the lobby floor.” As they are running from the coyotes, the kids get separated.
- In order to help Ollie, Gabe (a ghost) “had thrown an old sack of some kind over Mother Hemlock’s head. She was groping around in a fury trying to get it off.”
- Mother Hemlock grabs Ollie. “To her horror, Ollie felt her eyelids growing heavy. . . Frost was stealing up over her eyes, sealing them shut. Ollie screamed when she felt the frost creeping up over her own face.” Ollie falls asleep.
Drugs and Alcohol
- Coco says, “We’re about to have a pretty darn rough night.”
- Coco calls the smiling man a jerk.
- Ollie’s dead mother is able to communicate with Ollie through her watch. Ollie explains, “My watch helps me . . . My watch was—it was my mother’s. I think she talks to me with it. I think she’s trying to warn us now.”
- Ollie and her friends see many ghosts. The main ghost, Gretel, wore “a long white nightgown. Her face was gray-white; her nose was black. Her eyes were frozen open, huge and unblinking.” Gretel says she is looking for her bones.
- The kids are told that some ghosts “act. They want something. That’s when they’re dangerous, when they want something.”
- When Ollie looks into a mirror, a ghost is able to grab Ollie’s hand. “A creeping horror started to overtake her: a feeling that if she stayed there long enough, she would become a reflection instead of a girl. She felt herself take an involuntary step toward that dark mirror, then another.” Mr. Voland breaks the connection by breaking the mirror.
- Voland uses an Ouija board to communicate with the dead. Ollie thinks her mother is using the Ouija board to talk to her; however, Mr. Voland was using the Ouija board to trap Ollie behind the mirror.
- Ollie looked into a mirror and saw a woman. “She was blue-lipped and black-nosed. . . When she smiled at Ollie, her teeth were sharp. . . Ollie tried to yank away, but black-nailed fingers had curled out of the mirror glass, catching her hand and holding it.” Ollie is pulled into the world behind the mirror.
- When Coco and Brian get separated, she hears Brian’s voice coming from behind a lot of hallway doors.” Coco doesn’t find Brian, but Ollie’s watch leads her down a steep staircase.
- Gabe, a ghost, cannot speak because his mouth is frozen shut. However, he uses a Ouija board to talk to Coco and Ollie.
- Coco and Ollie need to find out how the world behind the mirror is connected to the real world. Ollie thinks, “Gretel is on this side. Gretel’s bones are somewhere on Coco’s side. The ghost and her bones are connected. If Gretel stands in front of a mirror on my side, and her bones are reflected in the same mirror on Coco’s side, then a door will open.” Gretel’s bones are never found, but Coco finds another way to open the door.
- Brian says, “Dead people—they’re gone. We aren’t meant to talk to them.” Because of Brian’s comment, Ollie thinks Brian is Catholic. “It came out at odd moments.”
- Mother Hemlock is closing in on Coco, who yells for Brain. Coco prayed “that Brian could hear.”