Tag Archives: Dan Graffeo

Halloween Night Fever: The Cir-cuss Comes to Town

Let me tell you straight off that this isn’t necessarily a book for adults. If you’re looking for the next Joe Hill novel, this isn’t the book for you. This is a book aimed at a younger crowd, particularly the tween age-set. This is a great, scary-but-not-too-scary story to read with your kids. It’s with this mindset that I write this review.

Reading Dan Graffeo’s Halloween Night Fever series already feels like something of a tradition for me. Last year I reviewed End of the Long Walk, the third book in the series. This year I read and enjoyed the prequel, The Cir-cuss Comes to Town.

Don’t let the word “prequel” fool you. You’ll be incredibly confused if you haven’t read End of the Long Walk first. That book builds the world of Sleepy Owl, where a select group of teenagers, the Pniese, spend their Halloween policing the dark things that go bump in the night.

The Cir-cuss Comes to Town seemed darker than the last one, and I felt like it was written for a slightly older age group. Cindy, a member of the Pniese, spends her time making out with her popular quarterback boyfriend instead of honing her archery and fighting skills in preparation for Halloween. While the group deals with the normal underworldly antics, such as a cyclops who loses a contact, this year is different because a demonic clown has raised an undead circus with the intent of wiping out the teenage Pniese, and he especially has his eye on Cindy.

While I enjoyed the humor in this book, which is one of Graffeo’s strengths, I was impressed by the description of the decayed and rotting circus. The grizzly bear with no eyes, a stiltwalker with blades embedded into his stilts, and an undead elephant with his ribs showing were just a few of the memorable characters. There are plenty of broken bones and flying teeth in this story, and I felt the climax under the Big Top was exciting and creative.

I stumbled a few times over awkward phrasing and unusual use of italics and capitalization, but I doubt the younger intended audience would be bothered by this. It was a spooky, fun book with enough excitement to keep the tween set interested throughout.

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Halloween Night Fever: End of the Long Walk

I have to be honest when I say that I was a bit baffled when I set out to read Halloween Night Fever: End of the Long Walk, the first release in a planned five-part series, though, oddly enough, chronologically the third book in the series.

Dan Graffeo’s book, with its rather bizarre superhero cover, sounded like an unintentionally off-the-wall novel. Several people in the town of Sleepy Owl begin having similar dreams and pull pieces of caribou skin out of that dream into real life. They form a secret society called the Pniese and spend each Halloween night keeping an eye on the dark things that cross over to the land of the living.

It sounded juvenile. Then I started reading it, and realized that it was, indeed, written for juveniles. And in that vein, I was pleasantly surprised.

What young’un doesn’t want to read about a group of kids who secretly keep the town safe right under their parents’ noses? The characters were diverse—perhaps even a little too obviously diverse—and had fun, different modes of transportation. Willy Hynes, the protagonist, is a smart-aleck kid who spends more time mouthing off than anything else. And he is funny. The dialogue made me smile several times and is the strongest part of the book.

Best of all, this is a book that will engage that hard-to-reach niche: boys. There’s action. An undead villain. Older mentors, secret names, and typical Halloween creatures shown in a different light. I’ve already suggested this book to a few boys who struggle with reading.

Halloween Night Fever: End of the Long Walk is engaging without being too difficult, and is just a fun read all around. Silly, sure. And that was half the charm of it.

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