Goodreads: Dark Waters
Series: Small Spaces #3
Having met and outsmarted the smiling man in Dead Voices but fearful of when he’ll come again, Ollie, Brian, and Coco are anxiously searching for a way to defeat him once and for all. By staying together and avoiding remote places, they’ve steered clear of him so far but their constant worry and stress is taking a toll on their lives and friendship. So when Ollie’s dad and Coco’s mom plan a “fun” boat trip on Lake Champlain, the three are apprehensive to say the least. They haven’t had the best of luck on their recent trips and even worse their frenemy Phil is on the boat as well. But when a lake monster destroys their boat, they end up shipwrecked on a deserted island. This isn’t just any island though. It’s hidden from the outside world in a fog and unless everyone works together to find a way to escape, they won’t survive long.
Dark Waters is rather a low point for the Small Spaces quartet. Under 200 pages in length, the book seems written mainly to fill up the “spring” slot in the series and to bridge the gap until the thrilling conclusion (sold to readers through a cliffhanger). The plot, which features a massive water snake, is simply not as compelling as the plots of the first two books, and it lacks heart. Fans of the series will read it because they are already invested, but Dark Waters proves a mostly forgettable read.
Regrettably, this series seems to have hit its high point with book one. Small Spaces was a pleasantly creepy, if not wholly surprising, read for the middle grade crowd. Dead Voices laid on the spook factor, even if the plot was confusing and convoluted. But Dark Waters feels like it has just given up. Although ostensibly Brian’s story, the book fails to meaningfully convey Brian’s inner life. And the premise–being stuck on a deserted island with a huge monster–just never feels scary. The children are too quick to solve problems and the actual problem–the monster–comes across as more cheesy than threatening. And the Smiling Man? Nowhere to be found.
Really, however, the book seems to exist mainly to set up the final cliffhanger. This seems to be indicated in part by just how short the story is. Probably the last 50 pages of the book are actually chapters from Small Spaces and Dead Voices. Most books put a preview of the upcoming installment, not excerpts from previous books. What can a person conclude but that these excerpts were appended to the ending so that the book looks longer than it truly is? Without these excerpts, it becomes clear that readers are buying a story that is not equal in length to the previous books. A story that is only around 180 pages. A story that barely begins before it ends.
The Small Spaces quartet began with much promise, but the books have been declining in quality as the series progresses. I will still be reading the final book, since I made it this far, but I admit that my hopes are not high.