One October, long after the day when carnivals usually close up shop for the year, a dark train rolls into town playing its ghostly calliope. It’s 3 am (?!), so only thirteen-year-old Jim Nightshade (<- scary) and Will Halloway (<- less scary. He is clearly not the evil child) are awake to see it. The prologue sets the spook spectacularly, being all ‘And that was the October week when they grew up overnight, and were never so young anymore…’ I’ve got chills, chatzen, and not the summer lovin’ kind.
Because the carnival is full of freaks and secrets and a carousel that runs backwards (so. unexpectedly. terrifying.) and also, WHY DOES IT COME IN THE NIGHT? This is the part of the show where I insert a creepy, carnival-related .gif except then I’d never be able to read my own blog again.
Ok so, Jim and Will get overly involved in the carnival and learn some of its freaky secrets (like the fact that it comes every forty years or so, but is always run by the same two dudes) and are then being subtly stalked by its freakier freaks, and there are none grown-ups who believe them (obvs) except eventually Will’s dear old dad, and the three of them join forces to save themselves (and the town [but mostly themselves]) from the Something Wicked that is This Way Coming.
And the last third sort of fell apart for me. Because they [destroy the carnival by laughing at it. Because the Evil Carnival thrives on fear and loathing, so if you have Genuine Fun you ruin it]. Um, what? And I know that’s not an uncommon solution for Things That Are Wicked, but it smacks of Disney Feelgoodery [disclaimer: I love Disney Feelgoodery in its proper place. That place is not this place. Although said Feelgoodery is probably what allowed Disney to make a movie out of this. Which I will probably never see because, Disney aside, CARNIVALS ARE TERRIFYING!].
What was I saying? The ending isn’t terrible, and it’s still quite frightening if you can shut your Skeptical-Brain-Eye. Or probably if you read it at night. Or if you are eight.
This book R.I.P.s it up.