The Bellwoods Game -- New Middle Grades Thriller for Halloween


Disclosure: I was sent a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

It is hard to believe that Halloween is next week! Halloween is not a favorite holiday in my house. However, Hazel is getting back into dressing up for the holiday although her costume choices are getting more adult as well. This week I am mostly going to focus on some books for Halloween including today's. This middle grades novel is a thriller that takes place on Halloween. It is definitely a page turner and had me staying up late to read it. The book is The Bellwoods Game by Celia Krampien. It is recommended for ages 8 to 12.

From the Publisher:

Perfect for fans of Doll Bones and Hocus Pocus, this “beautifully creepy” (Kirkus Reviews), highly illustrated middle grade novel follows a girl who hopes to fix her outcast status through a game in the haunted woods, only to discover that some legends shouldn’t be played with.

Everyone knows Fall Hollow is haunted. It has been ever since Abigail Snook went into the woods many years ago, never to be seen again. Since then, it’s tradition for the sixth graders at Beckett Elementary to play the Bellwoods Game on Halloween night. Three kids are chosen to go into the woods. Whoever rings the bell there wins the game and saves the town for another year, but if Abigail’s ghost captures the players first, the spirit is let loose to wreak havoc on Fall Hollow—or so the story goes.

Now that it’s Bailee’s year to play, she can finally find out what really happens. And legend has it the game’s winner gets a wish. Maybe, just maybe, if Bailee wins, she can go back to the way things used to be before her grandma got sick and everyone at school started hating her. But when the night begins, everything the kids thought they knew about the game—and each other—is challenged. One thing’s for sure: something sinister is at play…waiting for them all in the woods.

From Me:

Now as I said, Halloween is not a favorite holiday. And although I tend to like mysteries I am not as much of a thriller fan. This book however caught my attention, and I had trouble putting it down. It is definitely a thriller and strange things are going on in the Bellwoods. What I really love about this book however is the underlying messages. Bailee has become an outcast in sixth grade because of a misunderstanding that involves personal information she is not ready to share with everyone to clear up. It is told from her point of view, but each child's story/situation is discovered in the story. Each of the main characters has a secret part of their lives that they haven't shared with the others. Those secrets are what could bring them all down or could help them work together. 

The villain of the story is a lonely spirit that haunts the woods on Halloween. It has brokered a game with kids of Fall Hollow many years prior that if the kids win the spirit goes away for a year but if they do not, the spirit wreaks havoc on the town for the year. However, the spirit is dangerous, and the game is as well. Throughout the game the spirit reveals the kids secrets and the kids have to come to terms with their stories being known but also finding empathy and compassion for one another. I love the message that we never know what another person is going through at home, etc. and that if we work together we can overcome much. To me that is the message in this book. We need to be kind to one another but also to care and find ways to help each other. 

This book is well written and like I said it is a page turner. It draws you in and then you do not want to put it down. Kids will love the thrill of this story and the underlying message will be a great one to discuss if read as a class. It is a wonderful frightful story for Halloween. I hope you will check it out.