Room of Shadows by Ronald Kidd [in Shelf Awareness]
Short, skinny, 13-year-old David Cray mostly keeps to himself – until he experiences “a different kind of anger.” He’s got plenty making him mad: his father’s run off with another woman, leaving David and his mother to relocate to a ramshackle old Victorian in downtown Baltimore. “You say goodbye to your friends. You get in the car and drive off. You don’t look back.”
Starting eighth grade at Marshall Middle “with a bunch of strangers” was bad enough, but too soon David is confronted on his way home by bully Jake demanding his takeout crab-cake dinner. David snaps and suddenly Jake is on the ground, beaten and bloody. At the police station, David insists without irony to Sergeant Clark, “I don’t like violence”; Clark reluctantly gives David “a break.” But the assaults don’t stop there: three more gruesome incidents occur, each claimed by “The Raven” via notes written in verse. That David is never far from the violent scenes makes the school principal and Sergeant Clark question David’s protestations. Only his new friend Libby Morales believes in his innocence; together, the dynamic duo pursues the Raven, bravely confronting otherworldly forces.
Writer/librettist/playwright Ronald Kidd (Night on Fire; Monkey Town) reveals in his author’s note that Room of Shadows was inspired by Edgar Allan Poe’s “squalid and sad” final days: in intending to give Poe “a fitting death,” his goal “wasn’t to portray history but to fix it.” Despite occasionally implausible plotting (causing a child’s hospitalization would warrant severe consequences, for example), Kidd’s latest has plenty of chills and thrills that might even encourage new Poe enthusiasts. He deftly unleashes Poe’s enraged spirit to tell a tale – in Poe’s words to David – “as horrifying as it [is] irresistible.”
Discover: Mixing literary history with haunted-house mystery, Room of Shadows reveals how an angry boy battles the spirit of Edgar Allan Poe and finally finds peace – for them both.
Readers: Middle Grade