Book Review: Small Spaces

Happy Monday Readers and Writers,

I hope you’re ready for a brand new week. I’m feeling a bit lethargic myself, so it’s gonna take some caffeine this morning. *Holds up cherry limeade BCAA drink* You can do this people!

Today I’m sharing my individual review of Small Spaces by Katherine Arden.


This is my fourth buddy read with fellow writer and reader Iseult Murphy, and we both love chills and thrills so this was an easy pick. The buddy read portion of things will come later, but right now we will each be posting our own reviews.


After suffering a tragic loss, eleven-year-old Ollie only finds solace in books. So when she happens upon a crazed woman at the river threatening to throw a book into the water, Ollie doesn’t think–she just acts, stealing the book and running away. As she begins to read the slender volume, Ollie discovers a chilling story about a girl named Beth, the two brothers who both loved her, and a peculiar deal made with “the smiling man,” a sinister specter who grants your most tightly held wish, but only for the ultimate price. 

Ollie is captivated by the tale until her school trip the next day to Smoke Hollow, a local farm with a haunting history all its own. There she stumbles upon the graves of the very people she’s been reading about. Could it be the story about the smiling man is true? Ollie doesn’t have too long to think about the answer to that. On the way home, the school bus breaks down, sending their teacher back to the farm for help. But the strange bus driver has some advice for the kids left behind in his care: “Best get moving. At nightfall they’ll come for the rest of you.” Nightfall is, indeed, fast descending when Ollie’s previously broken digital wristwatch, a keepsake reminder of better times, begins a startling countdown and delivers a terrifying message: RUN. 

Only Ollie and two of her classmates heed the bus driver’s warning. As the trio head out into the woods–bordered by a field of scarecrows that seem to be watching them–the bus driver has just one final piece of advice for Ollie and her friends: “Avoid large places. Keep to small.” 

And with that, a deliciously creepy and hair-raising adventure begins.


The Review:



I gave this novel four spooky stars!

This is my first read from this author, and I doubt it will be my last.

Ollie spends her days daydreaming in class, hidden in the world of books and creative wanderings as a coping mechanism for a somewhat recent loss in the family.

But that all changes when she finds the sobbing woman by the lake one day, a woman ready to toss a book into the river. Appalled at the injustice, Ollie snatches the book from the woman and runs away.

When the book’s contents seem to jive with her surroundings the next day on a field trip, Ollie is perplexed. That is, until their bus breaks down on the way home and her mother’s watch face tells her to run away. Can Ollie and her new friends figure out what is going on and save themselves, or will they be too late?

This book was a lot of creepy fun! Almost all of the elements presented here really worked for me. 

For starters, the characters were really great. Ollie is a strong-willed kiddo who is very bright and good at math. I found it very easy to relate to her because I was a very opinionated child who was good at math as well. Ollie had a loss in her family and a part of this book was coming to terms with that as well as growing up a little bit. I really resonated with that and found it felt genuine. Ollie and her friends Coco and Brian were believable as sixth graders based on their conversations and actions, and the adult characters’ actions were thought out as well.

The plot had me since I read the blurb. There were plenty of light chills and thrills that kept me going the whole time, and though I was expecting something a little more horrific, this book reminded me of all the good times I had reading Goosebumps as a child. It makes sense why R.L. Stine endorsed this book. I also enjoyed the mystery element, though I did feel some things were a little obvious to me.

The writing was simple, fun, and free of purple prose, perfect for the middle-grade reader or adult reader looking for an easy read.

If I had to poke at anything, I would say that near the end where things concluded it felt a bit rushed and random. I wanted things to make a bit more sense than they did, and in small bits I kind of tilted my head and thought “Did we really verify that?” Other than that, I have no complaints.

All in all, this was the perfect intro read to Arden’s work, and I can’t wait to read the sequel and some of her other works!


That’s a Wrap!

Thanks for stopping by, and happy reading!

Have you read this book before? What did you think? Do you have a book recommendation similar to this one? Feel free to share in the comments!

If you’d like to see other reviews of mine, feel free to check out my blog homepage or my GoodReads. You can also follow my GoodReads reviews here. There are some great binge-worthy books on there!

Have a great day!


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    • Yeah, I blazed through it pretty fast thanks to having a free Sunday.

      We usually vibe similarly on these things, but I’m curious as well!

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