If you’ve got a kid (ages 8 to maybe 15 or so) who resists reading, then I’ve got a challenge for you to issue. Hand them Skeleton Creek by Patrick Carman and dare them to not finish it. Skeleton Creek is the title of the first book in a series (it’s up to book #4 now) that combines reading with a multimedia element. Let me explain.
Each book is a journal written by Ryan. Ryan lives in the small town of Skeleton Creek, and he and his friend Sarah have stumbled upon a mystery that almost killed Ryan. This mystery has both sinister elements and a large dose of conspiracy, and neither Ryan or Sarah are safe once the story begins.
So what makes this book different from most other mystery series for young adults? It’s the creepy online videos that Sarah (a budding video journalist) keeps emailing to Ryan. After every five to ten journal entries that Ryan puts down, readers find Sarah’s website address along with a password — visit the site, enter the password, and watch a video that ties the journal entries together. Ryan is trying to put the puzzle together with his own style of research, and Sarah simply jumps in with her video camera running and posts what she discovers.
I know… I’m being vague. I’m not telling you what the overall mystery is or what has happened to Ryan and Sarah to make them want to keep digging and putting their lives at risk. But I can assure you that Patrick Carman has created a mystery that is realistic, entertaining, and downright creepy.
How creepy? I don’t care if you’re 8 years old or 48, just watch the very first video by yourself, in the dark, late in the evening as I did. Scary movies don’t really bother me, but I jumped. Seriously jumped. That’s how drawn in I was from the first few journal entries and the video. And let me tell you… the videos don’t let up. You’ll meet residents of Skeleton Creek who may or may not have hidden agendas, you’ll return to some of the scariest places in Skeleton Creek over and over again… and you’ll need to examine sketches and sticky notes that can provide valuable clues to the mystery.
And just when you think you’ve got the story figured out… when book #1 is wrapped up and you’re feeling all safe and secure again? Ryan and Sarah have one final video that’s being broadcast live to the world as they attempt to solve the mystery. Want a hint at what happens? Click and drag your mouse pointer over the hidden sentence after this colon: It does not end well for Ryan and Sarah.
[Keep reading below for more details about the series — or stop if you don’t want to ruin the experience of the follow-up books in the series. I’ll try my best to avoid spoilers but I do want to explain how the series continues.]
And that’s book #1. And, yeah… things aren’t getting any better in Skeleton Creek. What I can tell you is that the real mystery in Skeleton Creek that starts in book #1 ends in book #2, Skeleton Creek: Ghost in the Machine. And the ending for book #2 will blow you away. Many more videos (a few that, again, caused me to jump) await the reader as well as even more clues for the reader to examine and try to figure out.
Book #3, Skeleton Creek: The Crossbones, picks up shortly after book #2 ends but things are much different for the main characters. Without giving away too much, let me just say that Sarah and Ryan now have some distance between them as well as a completely new mystery to solve and an old one that comes back to haunt them. And the fourth and final book in the series, Book #4, Skeleton Creek: The Raven, has just been released with both mysteries (yes, two of them now) from Books #1 to #3 wrapping up with… well… I just cannot say anything without spoiling something or giving some part of the story away. Just trust me… it’s awesome.
So, I’ll return to my initial statement about this series being great for those kids who avoid reading. (And for kids who loves to read? My guess is they’ll finish each book in a day or two… they’re that good.) Because most of the videos won’t make sense unless you read the journal entries, I’m betting parents will find this series to be of great interest to their difficult readers. The journal entries are typically short and fast, allowing readers to pop in a bookmark and continue later… if they can actually stop reading. The videos are fun… dark… twisted… and definitely spooky. Your kids will keep saying “Just one more entry…”
I purchased the first book for a nephew who enjoys reading… I sat down and read it to make certain it was going to be something he’d like. And after watching the very first video I knew it was going to be a hit. Right after I stopped laughing at myself for being such a scared-y cat, I told myself “Just one more entry…”
(If you enjoy this series, you’ll also like the Trackers series by Patrick Carman. It’s only two books into the series, but it follows a similar format of providing videos to go along with the story. I’ve enjoyed both books, but I have to say that the Skeleton Creek series is more my style.)