I don’t know if I will recover from reading Patrick Carman’s Skeleton Creek anytime soon. This is one scary book! I don’t do scary movies and I rarely read horror books, but the multimedia aspect of Skeleton Creek intrigued me, so I had to give it a shot. Do not read this one when you are home alone. I wouldn’t even read it at night! It’s a fantastic story and I think I would be even more enthusiastic about it if I was a horror reader. But I can recognize and appreciate a great book, even if it’s my least favorite genre.
The story is told in journal form, with lined pages and handwriting-like font. The journal writer is Ryan and he has just come home from spending two weeks in the hospital. Ryan has been forbidden from seeing his best friend, Sarah, after getting into an accident the last time the two were together. Life in Skeleton Creek is boring and the two had gone to explore a strange gold-mining dredge in the woods where a worker, Joe Bush, had died. That’s where Ryan falls and ends up in the hospital in a coma for almost 2 days.
Ryan and Sarah are forbidden from seeing or contacting each other, but this is the age of the internet, IMing, blogging, and websites. Sarah emails video updates of her continued investigation to Ryan. Readers can access Sarah’s videos through the website listed in the book and the passwords given on each page.
The first video Sarah sends shows her first visit to the dredge and their first evidence that someone else is there. The video immediately creeped me out and I actually jumped at the end. It reminded me a lot of the cinematography in “The Blair Witch Project”. SCARY! The second video shows the night of Ryan’s accident. In late videos Sarah continues to lay out her investigation. Again- CREEPY. I had trouble watching some of the videos because they really are scary.
I can not wait to share this with my students and I can already predict a rush to buy the book, because no one is going to want to wait on a waiting list for this one. The multimedia concept is really cool and I think it’s going to hook a lot of my more reluctant readers (especially boys). Because the two main characters are male and female, this is an equal opportunity horror book that both boys and girls will enjoy, though.
I love the video+text combination, but I do wonder how to handle it sometimes. Not every kid is going to have access to the internet when they are reading the book. The videos are interspersed throughout the book, sometimes only a few pages apart. While you can certainly read it without watching the videos, you will lose a lot of the story and atmosphere. Kids can’t always get to a computer while reading, especially if we are encouraging kids to read anywhere they can. If you are reading at your brother or sister’s soccer game, you aren’t going to jump online to watch the videos. Instead, you will be pulled out of “the zone” and might not continue reading until you can get online. Also, what if the website is down a few years from now but the book is still in libraries. Is it then useless? Interesting dilemmas.
There are definitely some issues with the idea of tying books to the internet. However, Skeleton Creek is a fantastic read and my horror fans are going to eat this one up. And I know they will be thrilled that there is going to be a sequel in the fall. Definitely pick this one up for your tween/YA horror fans.
To get an idea of how creepy the videos are, check out this video from skeletoncreekisreal.com