The Keeper

 The Keeper, by Guadalupe Garcia McCall

My youngest kid and I both read this fun, spooky middle-grade novel, which claims to be "inspired by a terrifying true story" and enjoyed it.  I found the solution to be strange, though, for very GenX reasons.

James and his family are moving from Texas (wide-open spaces, best friends) to Oregon (too many trees, really wet, no best friends) and James is Not Happy about it.  And his beloved abuelita passed away just a few weeks ago; the loss is still fresh for all of them.  Their new neighborhood does seem really nice, though; almost like a village backing onto the woods, but very close to Portland, and everybody is very friendly.  The neighbors invite them to play baseball, bring them cookies, and host a neighborhood BBQ to welcome them.

Then James gets a spooky letter, daring him to explore and insinuating that he's not brave enough to live there.  Is it another chapter in the ongoing prank war with his little sister Ava?  Is it a strange but harmless note from the odd old man who wanders the neighborhood, picking up trash?  Or is something more sinister going on?  James and Ava only have a few days to look around and figure out what is wrong in their lovely neighborhood, and they have to learn to work together more in order to do it.

The writing and the development of James' inner life is excellent.  His relationship with Ava and their love of their abuelita are the primary motivators of the story, while their parents are distracted by the move, and the prank war leads them to ignore odd events.  This all feels real, like a real family.  The danger is truly scary, too.  I think most kids 10+ and teens would enjoy this novel.

As I said, though, I found the solution to be...strange.  It was very well-written, it would probably be great for people under 25 which is after all the target audience, don't take this as a deterrent; in fact, I'd love it if you read it and let me know what you think.  I will put the solution below, so stop reading here if you think you'd like to read this novel.

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OK, here's the mystery.  It turns out that almost everyone in the neighborhood is part of a hereditary black magic coven (which settled the village in the first place).  For generations, they've been sacrificing a child every 25 years to ensure safety and prosperity for everyone else, not to mention magical control over the natural world.  Even the sheriff seems to be in on it.  This struck me as a very strange resolution.  So, in this story, much of what people feared most back in the Satanic Panic was true?  What is the 'true story' this was based on??   I just find this very weird, to write a story set in the present, in which we pretty much have a scenario that echoes exactly what people worried about in 1987 -- that there are secret cabals of outwardly-respectable people practicing black magic and murdering children, and they're so good at it that nobody ever suspects a thing.  

Perhaps, however, I am the weirdo.  Let me know what you think.

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