Review: Field of Screams - Wendy Parris
Genre: Middle-grade horror/mystery
Published: Delacorte Press, August 2023
My Rating: 4/5 stars
Wendy Parris’ debut middle-grade novel is marketed as a horror, but in my opinion, fits better within the spooky-mystery genre.
12-year old Rebecca has inherited a fascination with ghosts and the supernatural from her late father. With her handbook of Heart-Stopping Heartland Hauntings by her side, she would love the opportunity to experience a ghostly encounter for herself. As long as it isn’t too spooky though. When she and her mother go to spend the summer with Rebecca’s aunt in her father’s parental farmhouse, she just might get that chance. Rebecca soon recognizes the tell-tale signs of a haunting around the farm and, despite her mother's protests, decides to investigate. When a note from her late father, tucked away inside a comic book suggests he might have encountered the same ghostly presence when he was Rebecca’s age, the search becomes a more personal one than she anticipated.
Field of Screams offers a great middle-grade adventure that touches on topics like grief, friendship and moving on whilst honouring your past. There’s a great strength in children’s books, that manage to provide an enjoyable reading-experience ánd open the door for further talks about these big subjects. Parris hits that balance well. Rebecca is a wonderful and relatable protagonist, and I her interaction with family and friends were where the book shined brightest for me. I especially loved her mixed feeling about Kelsey, moms new boyfriend’s daughter. Let me tell you, 13-year old me has been there, and would’ve felt very validated to see this portrayal. The same can be said for the relationship between Rebecca and her mom. They don’t always see eye-to-eye (especially when it comes to the paranormal!), but their love for each other, and the shared grief over dad shines of the page. A particular conversation between them really struck me personally; beware of slight spoilers ahead.
Rebecca’s mom shows a strong dislike towards her daughter’s interest in ghosts throughout the story. It’s only near the end when she reveals the reason why. She used to share this fascinating with ghosts and hauntings and bonded over it with Rebecca’s dad. After his passing, she hoped his ghost would send her a sign, and when that sign didn’t come, it was a second grief she wanted to spare Rebecca from. This resonated with some of my own experiences with family members and was one of the strongest moments of the book for me.
My one piece of critique would be towards the marketing team: this truly is more of a mystery story than a horror, and works far better in that category. The lack of actual spooky moments makes me fear that kids looking for those will come away disappointed.
You can find this book here on Goodreads.