For Ages
8 to 12

Perfect for fans of Hocus Pocus and Stranger Things, this middle grade debut tells the story of a boy who travels into an alternate version of his Halloween-obsessed town to save his sister from an evil witch and free the town from the witch’s curse.

Fear comes home.

Welcome to Pearl, a town obsessed with Halloween: the spooky decorations, the costumes, the candy. No one seems to notice that every October 31st, a kid goes missing. Mason Miller does, though. Somehow he’s the only one who has any memory the person existed at all.

When Mason’s sister, Meg, vanishes while they’re trick-or-treating, Mason and his friends are pulled into an underworld where monsters roam the streets. They need to fight the evil taking over Pearl, but none of them know the true danger they're facing.

Meg has been stolen by a witch who has no plans to let her go. Shadows of death curl around trees and behind doorways as Mason must use every ounce of bravery he has . . . or be haunted forever with the memory of a sister that only he remembers.

An Excerpt fromGive Me Something Good to Eat


The Best Night of the Year

It was Halloween in Pearl, North Carolina, and the normal rules of the world didn’t apply. Abbie Purdom was only six years old, but even she understood that. Her mother, Beth, had spent the day getting the house ready for the festivities. It didn’t matter if you didn’t enjoy handing out candy or if you preferred not to decorate. There was only one way to celebrate in Pearl. It was an invisible contract you signed the day you moved to town. Everyone participated. No one sat out, at least no one respectable. If you lived in this town, you were in, all the way.

This was the first year Abbie’s mother let her pick out her own costume, and she settled on a very cute bee with a plastic stinger sticking out of the bottom. Now that she had it on, Abbie couldn’t stop staring at herself in the mirror, wiggling her butt.

“Oh my gosh,” her mother said. Beth was dressed as a sunflower, and she held up her phone to record her daughter as she pranced around in front of the mirror.

“I’m gonna sting you!” Abbie screamed as she chased her mom around the bedroom.

“You can’t sting me,” Beth said, scooping her up. “I’m your momma flower.” They squeezed each other tightly. “I love my little bee so much.”

“I love you too, Momma.”

The sky was purple when they stepped out the front door into the chill air. Orville Avenue was a living kaleidoscope of color and lights, like a child’s daydream come to life. The metamorphosis of the town that had begun in early September was now complete, and a skull-faced butterfly had hatched, ready to fly.

The unspoken rule of Halloween night was simple: the little kids went first. The street was pulsing with activity. Big, gaudy skeletons, inflatable dragons, and giant spiders dotted every yard they passed. Abbie’s eyes glowed when she saw them. The bee and the sunflower fell right into the line of people heading east toward the town square, stopping at every house they passed to load up on candy. Soon, the little bee could barely hold her bag, and Beth had to carry it for her.

“It’s too heavy,” Abbie said.

Beth winked. “Well, I’ll help you out with that.”

They both dug in, and in a few moments, they had eaten a dozen pieces of candy between them.

“We should take it easy,” Beth said as she dug another piece out. “Then again . . . it is the best night of the year.”

The sky was nearly dark now. The teenagers were starting to emerge, the princesses and knights replaced by zombies with spilled, dangling guts, groups of girls shrieking and taking selfies in animal onesies, and grim reapers with blood-slicked machetes. Pumpkins glowed from every stoop, some silly, but most with toothy mouths filled with jagged teeth.

“Momma,” Abbie said, leaning into Beth.

“It’s okay . . . it’s all for fun.”

They gave up on getting more candy and walked to the middle of town, cutting across Orville Avenue and into the tangle of alleys that separated it from Main Street. The alleys were a common shortcut for people walking to the square, but Abbie never liked them. The brick buildings were so close that the sky always narrowed to a slit. It made her feel like she was walking into a dungeon. Abbie huddled ever closer to Beth as they passed a couple of grown-ups who kissed and laughed and smelled like beer. The pair separated just long enough for Abbie to see the woman’s face, which was painted red.

“Happy Halloween, little bee,” the devil woman growled as they walked past. Abbie buried her head into her mother’s waist and refused to look up until they were out of the alley.

“Hey, we’re through . . . check it out.”

Abbie looked up and saw Pearl Park, a wide span of lush grass and gigantic willow trees contained within the town square. The rectangle of grass was surrounded by a footpath and a quiet street lined with old-fashioned storefronts. Coffee shops, sandwich stores, and pizza joints threw open their doors and pulled tables out onto the sidewalk for Halloween. For one night only, everyone ate and drank outdoors. Dogs on and off leashes chased each other across grass, dressed up like devils and hot dogs. In the center of the park was the Fountain of Bacchus, a massive pool of dancing water with an enormous classical statue in the center. As she always did, Abbie perked up when she saw it.

“Who’s that?” she asked, giggling at the almost naked statue.

“Bacchus. He’s the Greek god of . . . well . . . partying.”

The statue itself was ten feet tall and perched on top of a pedestal that stood over twelve feet tall. The bronze had gone green over the years, but Bacchus’s frivolous grin remained undimmed and he tirelessly held his cup aloft, as if raising a toast to the world.

“He’s not wearing clothes,” Abbie said with another giggle.

“I know, baby.”

They made a full circle around the park, just so the pair of them could see the decorations. The hanging willows were draped with purple lights, and ghosts hung and swayed in the breeze. Even with all the laughter and music, the scene was surreal and unsettling, and Abbie realized she was quickly getting her fill of Halloween. They turned the corner at the far end of the park and headed back home, passing the cemetery. It was the only part of town that wasn’t decorated, a detail that somehow made it more chilling. As they walked silently past it, the wind picked up, and Abbie shivered.


“It’s fine, baby. Just a cemetery.”

Just then, a couple walked under the streetlight a few feet in front of them. It was a cheerleader and what looked to Abbie like a caveman.

“Beth, is that you? Oh my God, you are so cute!”

Abbie had seen this scene unfold plenty of times. Her mother would catch up with her friends on, well, pretty much everything, and Abbie knew she wasn’t going anywhere soon. She began twirling around her mother’s legs in little circles, humming to herself to pass the time. She kept her eyes on the cemetery, which was now half a block away. Far enough to be safe, but still too close to not keep an eye on.

She made a circle around her mom’s legs, once, twice, a third time. It was the fourth time that she stopped when she saw a young girl standing in the shadows of the cemetery. She was dressed in a black sweatshirt, its hood pulled up over her short black hair. Her skin was as pale as milk, and her deep-set eyes looked almost purple in the reflection of the streetlight. It was impossible to tell her age. She could have been as young as eight or as old as seventeen. For a moment, the dark-haired girl stretched and yawned as if she were awaking from a long nap. Then she turned to Abbie and smiled.

Abbie scrambled back behind her mother’s legs and buried her face in Beth’s thighs.

“Easy, Abbie, Momma is talking.”

When Abbie finally worked up the courage to look once more, the dark-haired girl was still standing there, still smiling. The only difference was she had something in her hand, a small doll that she held aloft. Squinting at it, Abbie took a step away from her mother. The strange girl held it in front of her, shaking it like a dog toy, and when Abbie had taken a half dozen steps forward, she recognized what it was.

The doll was simple, probably handmade from the look of it, with a sweet, plump, smiling face. Yellow and black stripes ran down its body. And at the bottom was a stinger made of felt. The doll was a bee, or more accurately, a little girl dressed like a bee. The dark-haired girl noticed that Abbie had finally figured it out, and her smile deepened. Abbie was afraid and confused but seeing that smile put her at ease.

She stepped forward, hands outstretched.

“Stay close to your mom,” the dark girl whispered, but her voice sounded like she was speaking directly into Abbie’s ear. Even stranger, Abbie never saw the girl’s mouth move.

“Come on, Abbie,” Beth said, scooping her up from behind.

“But, Momma, the doll . . .”

She pointed back over her mother’s shoulder, but the girl and the doll were gone. Mother and daughter continued on, tracing their way back through the square, back down the alleys, and back onto Orville Avenue, which was wilder than ever. After being bumped by people left and right, Abbie realized her mom had finally had enough.

“Ugh . . . baby, you gotta walk a little bit.”

Beth slipped Abbie down to the sidewalk and they eased back against a fence, out of the foot traffic, which was heavier than ever.

“Momma’s got to rest for a second,” Beth said, catching her breath. “We’re almost home, but we walked farther than I thought we did.”

Abbie was only distantly aware that her mom was talking. Instead, she was staring through the wrought-iron fence at the house behind it. Like all the yards in town, it was packed with decorations, but one of them stood out. The centerpiece was an eight-foot scarecrow made of sticks and roots and draped with a long black jacket. The eyes in its jack-o’-lantern head glowed with a strange green light that seemed to pour out over the jagged teeth. The scarecrow looked too real somehow, not like a cheap decoration at all, but real wood and a real pumpkin with real, unearthly fire bubbling inside it.

“Scary scarecrow,” Abbie whispered.

Beth glanced back and yawned.

“Yeah, it is. . . .”

The wind was soft, the night was suddenly cold, and Abbie kept on staring at the scarecrow, certain that if she looked away, even for a moment, it would come to life. Even the sound of the noisy partyers seemed to die away, and Abbie felt strangely alone, as if the only thing left in the entire world were her and the scarecrow.

“Mommy . . .”

In the roar of the crowd, Beth never heard her daughter’s voice. Instead, she watched the passersby for a moment before fishing her phone out of her pocket. It was already almost ten o’clock.

“How did it get so late?”

Time always did seem to move weirdly on Halloween, especially since they’d moved to Pearl.

“Five minutes!” someone yelled.

The mob around them roared. It was nearly time for Pearl to carry out one of its oddest traditions. At ten o’ clock on the dot, every pumpkin would be snatched off the porches, dragged out to the middle of the street, and smashed to a pulp. Orville Avenue would become Orange Avenue. It was a wild example of shared madness, and though the people were laughing, Beth always found it unsettling, as if the entire town were suddenly under some kind of spell. No one objected, regardless of how detailed their jack-o’-lanterns might have been. Every single one would be pulped into the concrete. When the morning came, the entire street would be orange with pumpkin guts.

“It’s almost time for them to smash the pumpkins,” Beth said. “You fell asleep last year. You remember that . . .”

She glanced down. Abbie was gone.

“Abbie . . .”

Beth scanned the yard of the house behind her, sure that her daughter was getting a closer look at the decorations, but she was nowhere to be seen. Neither, Beth realized dimly, was the towering scarecrow. Frantically, she turned back to the street, to that frothing ocean of people flowing in every direction.


She tried to stay calm, but she couldn’t, not when that wall of ghoulish faces passed by, laughing and grinning with blood-soaked fangs, wild eyes, and clawed hands.

“Abbie!” she screamed. “Help!”

“Two minutes!” someone yelled, and the crowd split and divided, rushing to grab the nearest pumpkin, to be ready for the moment of triumph.

“Help me!”

Fear had hold of Beth now, and in the frenzy, she felt a gentle hand at her shoulder. She turned and saw it was Ms. Vernon, the kind old woman who lived a few houses down from her. She mostly kept to herself, and she struck Beth as rather odd. Even so, she always smiled and waved at Abbie when the two of them walked by. She was wrapped in a blood-red cloak with a spiderweb pattern on it and holding a cane with a gruesome face carved into the end. To Beth’s surprise, there were also spiders in her hair.

“Ms. Vernon! Please . . . you have to help.”

“Help with what, dear?”

“Abbie! She was right here, and now . . . now . . .”

“Oh, honey,” Ms. Vernon said sweetly. “You’re fine. You’re safe.”

“No, Abbie . . . we . . . we have to find her.”

Beth heard a clicking sound, and she realized that Ms. Vernon was tapping her strange cane on the ground. One, two, three times.

“I . . .”

Ms. Vernon was whispering as well, though her voice was far too soft for Beth to make out the words.

“. . . I have to find her . . .”

Ms. Vernon finished her nearly silent words.

“Find who, dear?” she asked.

Her smile was simple and knowing.

“I . . . have to . . .”

“Have to what?”

The young mother opened her mouth to speak, but only a single word emerged.

“. . . find . . .”

“There’s no one to find,” Ms. Vernon whispered. “After all, it’s Halloween. It’s the best night of the year.”

Beth’s eyes were watery, and a tear worked its way free and spilled down her cheek.

“The best night of the year,” she whispered, repeating the words like a robot.

“That’s right. And look . . . they’re about to smash the pumpkins! You should be out there, joining in the fun.”

Beth’s face changed from a fearful grimace to a wide smile. Only her eyes still held pain and terror.

“You’re right,” she said, her voice full of childish excitement.

Ms. Vernon’s eyes were warm, and her smile was comforting. One of the spiders in her hair twitched, but Beth didn’t notice. She was overwhelmed with a sense of peace, the way she had felt when her mother tucked her into bed so many years ago.

“No need to worry about Abbie, is there?”

Beth tilted her head.

“Who’s Abbie?”

“Ten seconds!” the crowd yelled.

“Don’t you worry about that,” Ms. Vernon said. “Go on, enjoy yourself.”

Beth walked away on shaky legs, out into the middle of the street. The people of Pearl, young and old, screamed and hollered as they began to paint the asphalt orange with pumpkins. She laughed and joined in, stomping a half-smashed jack-o’-lantern to bits. She was dressed as a sunflower, though for the life of her, she couldn’t figure out why. She was crying too, but she couldn’t figure that out either.