by Cynthia Leitich Smith
Read by Shaun Taylor-Corbett and Charley Flyte
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Content: There are some intense moments involving danger for young indigenous women, instances of racism, some mild swearing, and mention of murder. It’s in the YA section ( grades 6-8) of the bookstore.
It’s the fall, and since the play at school has been canceled, Hughie Wolfe has been looking for something else to do with his time and talents. Enter Sam, who talks Hughie into volunteering at the Harvest House haunted house. This sounds like a good idea until the person in charge decides to set up an “Indian” burial ground and lean into the legend of the “Indian Maiden” ghost at the crossroads. This makes Hughie, who is Muskogee (I think; at least that’s what is sticking in my head and I don’t have the book to check), angry, and so he and his friends decide to investigate the legend and see what truth lies behind it.
It’s part high school drama set in a small Kansas town, nearby Lawrence – Hughie is a sophomore, so there is some drama with bullies and he has his first date with Marie, who is Ojibwe, in addition to the drama about cutting the funds for the drama department – part ghost story. Hughie’s chapters are interspersed with Celeste’s, who is the ghost of the crossroads and whose mission is to protect indigenous girls from the predator that lurks there.
I liked a lot of this book. I liked that it’s an indigenous story set here in Kansas, I liked Leitich Smith’s portrayal of indigenous kids in a non-reservation environment. She really leaned into the racism – so many instances of racism by white people towards the native kids, and in ways they didn’t even think about. I felt like she didn’t go hard enough in the ghost story and backed away from a truly macabre ending, but it is a young YA book, so I can’t really fault that. The narrators were good, though I thought it was dragging by the end, and I sped up the listening speed just so I could finish.
I’m glad it’s out there, though, and I hope it can find its audience.