At a Glance
Middle Grade sci-fi horror
“Twelve-year-old Simon is obsessed with aliens. The ones who take people and do experiments. When he’s too worried about them to sleep, he listens to the owls hoot outside. Owls that have the same eyes as aliens—dark and foreboding.
“Then something strange happens on a camping trip, and Simon begins to suspect he’s been abducted. But is it real, or just the overactive imagination of a kid who loves fantasy and role-playing games and is the target of bullies and his father’s scorn?” (source: Clarion Books)
- Beautifully designed cover
- X-Files for kids
- Definite creep factor
There are so few creepy sci-fi books out there for kids, so I wanted to love this one. I think I had pretty high expectations going in, so that may have been why I have mixed feelings about this book.
Getting the right creep-factor balance in middle grade is hard. There are times where Ronald L. Smith knocks it out of the park in that regard. But there are other times, in an attempt to reign in the spookiness of the story I believe, Smith rushes through a scene, leaving the reader scratching their head. Now I know that I am an adult reading a children’s book, so I fully acknowledge that kids may like this tactic better than I do. So keep that in mind.
I did like the main character, Simon. I felt like he was relatable and the problem of parents just not listening is one that I feel like a lot of kids will get. I do feel, however, that some of his relationships were a bit stereotypical–his military father, for example, is painted as a hard-nose, muscly jerk that can border on abusive at times. While I think this type of relationship is relatable–that of a scornful and disappointed parent–I found myself feeling like the blame was tied strictly to the military aspect of the father instead of him personally. I would have like more dimensionality in his characterization.
The book is definitely fast-paced and was easy to read. I felt like the tension builds well throughout the story, but the ending definitely feels rushed. I would have liked an extra chapter or two leading up to the final scenes, so kids may feel a little confused by the abruptness of the end.
I do like that the fact that Smith has unabashedly written an alien abduction story for kids. And that he attempts to make it creepy. Many kids’ books with aliens go the more silly/funny route, so I appreciate what Smith is trying to do here. It would be a good introduction for fans of X-Files to pick up for their own kids.
While not the most solid book I have read, I would recommend The Owls Have Come to Take Us Away to anyone who enjoys sci-fi and wants to introduce kids to a decent alien abduction story.