In Skeleton Creek by Patrick Carman, Ryan has just returned home after spending two weeks in the hospital due to an accident. Alone in his room, he documents the events leading up to his tumble in his journal. He and his film making best friend Sarah, attempted to find out the truth about Skeleton Creek. What are the townspeople hiding? What is the mystery behind the great dredge in the woods? Even after his accident and warnings from his parents, Ryan and Sarah continue to pursue the truth, putting themselves into even more danger.
I don't usually review YA but when I was approached about reading this novel, I felt that I couldn't say no. It's something I've never seen anywhere else. You see, Skeleton Creek isn't just a novel. It's a multi-media experience. After reading a section of Ryan's journal, he prompts the reader to go to Sarah's website where she has uploaded a video for Ryan to view. At first, I thought this would annoy me but it was a lot of fun. It was quite an interesting (and I'll bet expensive) concept. Both the author and publisher have taken quite a risk, but it works.
The book: I'd like to review the book and the video separately, so I'll start with the book. It's written as a journal, in fact it looks like a journal, hand written with emails taped in and all. At first, I was a little thrown at how mature Ryan's writing is, but it turns out that Ryan is considered 'gifted'. That made it more believable. The story hooked me right away. Why is Ryan so scared? As the novel progresses, Ryan starts to piece together the real story of Skeleton Creek and I couldn't put it down. There are a few minors issues but it didn't bother me.
The videos: Patrick Carman included the online videos as a way to catch the interest of that elusive group, boys. And really what boy doesn't love online videos? I also doesn't hurt that the girl cast as Sarah is adorable. I give Carman 2 thumbs up for creating a smart (though reckless) girl as Ryan best friend. The videos are well made and though somewhat Blair Witch-esque, you needn't worry about vertigo. The shaky camera work is limited.
Overall, it was an enjoyable read/watch. If I had read this in my youth, I would have loved it! It was just my thing at that age. It was downright creepy and I'm glad I read it in the afternoon not night. I'm not sure how I feel about the end. I was left with more questions and I hope there will be a sequel.
Skeleton Creek is an interesting experiment. How do I feel about the format? It's an entertaining novelty but I do have some qualms. The book requires the reader to have internet access. While most people have that, there are some who do not. It's not exactly portable (not for me, anyway), I needed to be handy a computer while reading it. I couldn't just throw it in my purse and go. Luckily, it's a quick read. I finished it in under 2 hours. Also, will someone 10 years from now pick it up from the library and be able to access the videos on the website. Will it still be there? We shall see.
For ages 10+
Available Feb 10, 2009
Patrick Carman talks about the book here: