Reviews for Skeleton Creek

Booklist Reviews 2008 December #1
A gimmick? You betcha. But given the novelty and the advertising blast this novel with accompanying Web videos is getting, this is something kids will want. And Carman s accessible, journal-type text, full of mystery and foreshadowing, pulls from the outset. Teenage Ryan records the circumstances that landed him with a broken leg, forever--according to his parents--parted from his partner in mischief, Sarah Fincher. But parental edicts mean little in the face of a true mystery in the teens boring town, so the two use technology to keep in touch: while Ryan journals and frets, Sarah films her adventures, references to which appear periodically in the journal along with the address of a Web site where they can be viewed. With an appropriately homemade look, the nicely choreographed videos definitely build atmosphere, but for most of the novel, readers won t miss vital clues if a computer isn t close at hand. It s the ending that really annoys: the last page of the journal leads to a video that promises answers--but not until May 2009. A spoiler? Not quite, but certainly something book purchasers should know about. Copyright 2008 Booklist Reviews.

Kirkus Reviews 2008 December #1
Mischance befalls 15-year-old Ryan as he investigates the shadowed past of his small Oregon town, leaving him with a broken leg and the threat of a cross-country move if he attempts to contact his best friend and fellow investigator, Sarah. After disabling the monitoring software on his computer, Ryan and Sarah continue to communicate through surreptitious videos. Ryan's faux-journal entries are meticulously faux-printed on faux-lined paper, with faux-printouts pasted in; this text narrative is interrupted by instructions to visit the book's website, where increasingly esoteric passwords unlock the appropriate videos. More gimmick than narrative necessity, the videos crackle with annoyingly fake static. Inspired by the interactive thread used in Cathy's Book (by Sean Stewart and Jordan Weisman, 2006), Carman's storytelling is not sufficiently compelling to motivate readers to continually break the narrative to look at digital content. The printed ending builds the suspense, but readers will be disappointed by the final video message, which cheapens the genuine mystery with a cliffhanger ending. Carman's style holds some promise for readers who can get past the contrivance. (Mystery. 10-14) Copyright Kirkus 2008 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Publishers Weekly Reviews 2008 December #3

In a much-anticipated "multi-platform" mystery, Carman (the Land of Elyon series) tells of two small-town teens who go looking for trouble in an abandoned dredge once used to find gold. Presented as the journal of 15-year-old Ryan, the book is produced on ruled paper and in a font resembling handwriting; Ryan unfolds the details of the recent accident that has left him laid up with a broken leg. Periodically, Ryan receives e-mails from Sarah, his fellow sleuth, who is still hunting down clues about ghostly sightings at the dredge, and, armed with a video camera, is posting her findings on a Web site. (Readers can access the site with the passwords in the book.) The premise is more intriguing than the execution. Clues come slowly and don't keep the reader guessing so much as perplexed: Sarah's brief clips are just as much hair-twirling musings as plot-thickeners. Readers should know in advance what the otherwise enticing package does not make clear: this is the first in a series, and anyone expecting that it will end on anything but a cliff-hanger will be disappointed. Ages 9-12. (Jan.)

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School Library Journal Reviews 2009 March

Gr 6 Up--Ryan McCray and Sarah Fincher wonder how Skeleton Creek, OR, received its name. Research takes them on a nighttime expedition to a mechanical dredge, where Ryan breaks his leg. The teens think the dredge is haunted by Joe Bush, a miner killed there. The book is interspersed with Sarah's videos, which can be accessed on the Internet. The mystery remains to be solved; sequels are guaranteed. Plot weaknesses mitigate the teen appeal of the Internet tie-in concept. The book's central flaw: it is not scary. Ryan's narration should provide creepy immediacy, but his constant insistence that he is petrified never plays out in the story. The book ramps up and peters out, without a climax or resolution of the mystery. The repetitive musings hold the pace to a slow walk, and Carman relies on contrivance to keep adults at bay. Another reason it lags is the lack of synergy between Ryan and Sarah, even though they are supposedly best friends. They communicate only via electronic means (their parents have forbidden their friendship), and their individual findings don't dovetail into one coherent story line. Even if one stops to watch Sarah's videos, there seem to be missing pieces of information that make the plot hard to follow. The actual telling is a sad departure from the intriguing premise.--Caitlin Augusta, The Darien Library, CT

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