Book Review: Empty Smiles by Katherine Arden

A book review of Katherine Arden's Empty Smiles, 4th book in the Small Spaces series.

Title: Empty Smiles

By: Katherine Arden

Genre: Horror

Pages: 208

Release Date: August 9th, 2022

Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers

Rating: ★★★★☆


Summary from Goodreads:

New York Times bestselling author Katherine thrills once again in the finale to the critically acclaimed, spook-tacular quartet that began with Small Spaces.

It’s been three months since Ollie made a daring deal with the smiling man to save those she loved, and then vanished without a trace. The smiling man promised Coco, Brian and Phil, that they’d have a chance to save her, but as time goes by, they begin to worry that the smiling man has lied to them and Ollie is gone forever. But finally, a clue surfaces. A boy who went missing at a nearby traveling carnival appears at the town swimming hole, terrified and rambling. He tells anyone who'll listen about the mysterious man who took him. How the man agreed to let him go on one condition: that he deliver a message. Play if you dare.

Game on! The smiling man has finally made his move. Now it’s Coco, Brian, and Phil’s turn to make theirs. And they know just where to start. The traveling carnival is coming to Evansburg.

Meanwhile, Ollie is trapped in the world behind the mist, learning the horrifying secrets of the smiling man's carnival, trying everything to help her friends find her. Brian, Coco and Phil will risk everything to rescue Ollie—but they all soon realize this game is much more dangerous than the ones before. This time the smiling man is playing for keeps.

The summer nights are short, and Ollie, Coco, Brian, and Phil have only until sunrise to beat him once and for all—or it’s game over for everyone.


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I really love this creepy series.

What really makes this book stand out for me was the humanization of the villain. Even though his motives were horrendous and dark, the reasons why behind those motives came to light toward the end, and our main characters even wanted to help.

I loved Ollie. She was strong, courageous and wonderfully written.

Favorite Quote:
"Sometimes his smiles were scary, and sometimes they were friendly, but they never meant what you thought they did."

I gave this book 4 our of 5 stars. It was wonderful and a quick read. Made it through in just a few hours. Would be a great read for a dark and stormy night. 

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