Reviews for Wicked Cruel

Booklist Reviews 2013 August #1
Three scary stories set in the fictional New England town of Cheshire Notch make up this slim collection of ghost stories. Only the first can fittingly be called an "urban legend," and it's no coincidence that it's the strongest tale. Middle-schooler Jordan is haunted after finding out that former school pariah, Lorne, has apparently died of a brain injury after years of torment, with each playground beat down edging him closer to death. It's a chilling concept that Wallace uses to draw out Jordan's, and others', guilt over their complicity. Along the way, Jordan's uncle adds some meta enjoyment by commenting on urban legends in general. The second story, about a group of ghostly horses, and the third story, featuring a 13-year-old who develops a crush on an eighteenth-century ghost, are mostly devoid of scares, though Wallace does believably depict fumbling teen relationships. Urban legends derive much of their power through the quick shock, so this longer format may not be ideal. Still, decent Halloween-time material. Copyright 2013 Booklist Reviews.

Horn Book Guide Reviews 2014 Spring
Wallace retells three urban legends, setting them all in the same New Hampshire town. The first is a contemporary ghost story about a bullying victim; the second features drowned horses that haunt a community; the third involves five farm children who died young but who may not have left the earthly plane. Accessible and mildly creepy, the tales are varied and engaging.

Kirkus Reviews 2013 June #1
Welcome to Cheshire Notch, N.H., "a town where kids grow up aware of the many spirits in their midst." "It's no rumor," a character states in the opening pages. "I heard it from….Well, I don't remember where I heard it. But from somebody reliable." That's how urban legends work, whether it's the story of the finger in a Big Mac, a fried rat in a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken, or the drowned kid whose body thrashing in the pond can still be heard on dark, quiet nights. Nobody ever seems to have actually witnessed the event in question but hears it related by "my friend's barber's cousin in Chicago." Three ghostly stories explore urban legends—actually rural New England legends—and how they changed lives. A bullied boy moves away and dies from a brain injury, yet he is seen in a music video after his death. A team of horses drowns in a flooded brickyard, but on certain rainy nights, they run free. Five farm children die young, but one mysteriously communicates with a young boy who may be as afraid of girls as of ghosts. Ghosts may not have substance, but these brief novellas do, with their themes of bullying, loneliness, guilt, atonement, life and death. Well-crafted, eerie tales of the bonds between the dead and the living. Wicked good. (Ghost stories. 10 & up) Copyright Kirkus 2013 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

School Library Journal Reviews 2013 September

Gr 5-9--This collection is comprised of three short and spooky urban legends that take place in a small New England town. In "The Horses of Brickyard Pond," Danny learns that the old tales about a team of ghost horses are true and comes to terms with his less-than-normal family. In "Rites of Passage," seventh-grader Owen has a ghostly encounter on a centuries-old property where five children mysteriously died in the 1800s. The title story is a modern-day legend about the mysterious fate of a bullied boy and how his former classmates are affected. Wallace has written much more than just a set of horror stories. His male protagonists deal with growing up in a natural, believable way (parents, siblings, dating, and bullying issues are at the heart of the tales), but they must also handle being spooked by the seemingly supernatural things going on around them. Kids looking for a scary book will certainly enjoy the suspenseful elements, but they will also be treated to a trio of well-written, thoughtful stories.--Jenny Berggren, formerly at New York Public Library

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