The Dogs by Allan Stratton (2015)

DogsQuick, creepy, and twisty, this is a solid choice for hungry horror fans.

Recommended grade level: 7 and up

Pages:  272 (for ISBN 9781492609384)

Genre(s) and keywords: thriller, horror, mystery, reluctant readers

Tone/Style: dark, unreliable

Pace: moderate to fast

Topics: ghosts, stalking, rural setting, parents dating

Themes: family, trust, absent parents, secrets

Summary: Cameron and his mom are being hunted by his dad. In their isolated farmhouse, Cameron sees and hears things that aren’t possible. Soon he’s questioning everything – including his sanity. What’s hiding in the night? Buried in the past? Cameron must uncover the secrets before they tear him apart. (Source)

Who will like this book?: I’m always looking for more scary books to recommend.  This was an attention-grabber when I booktalked it, including with kids who otherwise weren’t too interested in reading.

Who won’t like this book?: This is genre fiction through and through. It will scratch the itch for horror and thriller fans, but there isn’t much to draw in any other types of readers.

Other comments:  I did have one qualm about this book, and it’s the attitude toward mental illness. It’s pretty common in horror for there to be suspicions that someone is “crazy” because they are seeing supernatural things. But Cameron acts as though having hallucinations and seeking help would make him less of a person. I wish this book had addressed Cameron’s possible mental illness with more sensitivity, and sent the message that it’s okay to need help.

Sequel(s): None

Readalikes: This is a step up from Mary Downing Hahn in maturity and reading level; her books might still appeal, depending on the reader. I haven’t found psychological thrillers to be common for middle school-age readers, though I did find a selection of titles on this page at YA Central (I cannot comment on the maturity of content in these titles). For middle schoolers looking for something fast-paced and creepy, some possibilities: What Waits in the Woods by Kieran Scott; Frozen Charlotte by Alex Bell; and The Rains by Greg Hurwitz.

-Kylie Peters

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