For Ages
8 to 12

A new locked room scary story about thirteen-year-old Avery, who plans a séance at a deserted theater to bond with her friends, only to realize they’re locked inside with someone—or something—else. This spine tingling read is perfect for fans of Katherine Arden and Lindsay Currie!

When Avery returns to her hometown after moving away a year earlier, she is hoping to jump back into her friend group as if nothing’s changed.

Unfortunately, new interests, secret crushes, and changing dynamics get in her way. To reunite her BFFs, she suggests they host a séance at an abandoned theater that was the site of a horrible tragedy.

What starts as a fun outing, soon becomes a fight for survival after the group gets locked in…and discovers they’re not alone.

An Excerpt fromStage Fright

Chapter One

As the small plane descended, breaking through the dark thunderclouds, Avery O’Reilly finally got a good look out the window.

Below her spread a patchwork quilt of Midwestern farm fields, the green squares defined by gray roads and dotted with the occasional white house and red barn. Her eyes followed the watery squiggle that was Clear Creek as the landscape gently gave way to the familiar landmarks of her hometown. She pressed her palm to the glass. There was the shockingly turquoise rectangle of the local pool where she and Paige used to have swim meets. Nearby, its trees looking like broccoli tops, was Center Park, where she and Jaylen had gotten stuck atop the carnival Ferris wheel. And beyond that, the L-shaped black tar roof of Lincoln Elementary, where she and Tyler had partnered on every school project from kindergarten through fourth grade.

“I’m back!” Avery whispered.

The plane banked and tilted. From beneath her came the rumbling vibration of the landing gear going down.

Ms. Choi, the middle-­aged businesswoman seated next to her, smiled. “Someone will be here to meet you, right, hon?”

“Oh yes.” Avery pushed her tortoiseshell glasses up the bridge of her nose. “My best friend, Paige, and her sister.”

“Well, I hope you have a wonderful vacation. There is something special about spending time with the people you grew up with.” Ms. Choi closed her laptop and stowed it in her briefcase. “You know the saying—­‘Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver and the other gold.’ ”

Avery considered this. She agreed . . . sort of. Her old friends were definitely gold. But since she’d moved to Philadelphia, she hadn’t made any friends she would rate as silver . . . or even bronze. Maybe plastic? Nobody new would ever measure up to Paige, Jaylen, and Tyler. The four of them had been inseparable since before she could remember. If only her parents hadn’t ripped her away from them, uprooting the whole family for their stupid jobs. Like they hadn’t had perfectly fine professorships in Illinois.

Avery took a relaxing breath. She should live in the moment, like Tyler said to do. He was chill like that. These next two weeks of summer were going to be the best ever, and she shouldn’t wreck them by dwelling on how miserable she’d been the past year in Philadelphia.

The plane bumped slightly as it hit the runway. Static buzzed over the address system, followed by the cheerful voice of the flight attendant. Avery only half listened. She switched her cell phone off airplane mode, anticipating texts from Paige to explode across the screen.

There was only one text.

From her mom.

Hope the thunderstorms didn’t delay you! Don’t forget to text me when you land!

Avery frowned. Her seven excited messages to Paige from the morning had been delivered. Paige should’ve texted back as soon as her half-­day gymnastics camp was over. Worry whispered in her ear. Lately Paige hadn’t been as responsive as usual. What if she wasn’t as thrilled as Avery about this visit?

Reason whispered back. Paige had spent a month up at her grandparents’ cabin in Northern Wisconsin, where Wi-­Fi and cell service were spotty. And the last few weeks she’d been way busy with gymnastics camp. Everything was fine.

Her anxiety quashed for the moment, Avery texted her mom.


Immediately three dots pulsed across the bottom of her screen. Avery rolled her eyes. Clearly, Mom had been monitoring her phone, anxiously hoping to hear from her. While waiting for the text to come through, Avery pulled her bright red-­and-­yellow backpack from under the seat in front of her and stood. She was still small enough that she didn’t have to bend to avoid cracking her head on the overhead compartment. That was probably the only good thing about being short.

Her phone buzzed.

Have a great time, sweetheart, and stay safe! Please tell everyone on the block that Dad and I say hi. And remember to give Mrs. Sernett the hostess gift I sent as soon as she’s home from the wedding!

Avery’s mouth twisted. There was no way she’d forget the shoebox-­sized present her mom had shoved into her suitcase at the last minute. That reminded her. She unzipped her backpack and, pushing aside the latest Lark and Ivy mystery book, searched inside for a small gold gift bag until she found it. Whew. The friendship bracelet hadn’t fallen out or disappeared. She’d spent hours carefully braiding it using Paige’s favorite color combo: neon yellow, orange, and green. Avery rubbed the matching bracelet around her wrist. Paige would love them.

Her phone buzzed again. Another message from her mom.

Maya from down the block dropped off a birthday party invite for you! Something to look forward to when you get home!

Avery swiped out of the thread. Maya wasn’t exactly part of the mean girls’ clique at her new school, but it wasn’t like she’d ever jumped to Avery’s defense when the others mocked her Midwestern accent. Maya’s parents were probably making her include Avery on the invite list just because they were neighbors.

She tucked her phone into her backpack and pictured Paige waiting in the terminal with a massive Welcome Home sign. She couldn’t wait to give her a huge hug.

Ten minutes later Avery stood alone in the tiny municipal airport, a pit in her stomach. Aside from a grumpy old guy in a ballcap lecturing a ticket agent, no one was there.

She pulled out her phone and tapped out a text.

where r u

Avery waited a minute, but no answer came. She wandered to baggage claim, losing herself in a cloud of what-­ifs. Paige’s eighteen-­year-­old sister Natalie was supposed to be driving her to the airport. What if Nat had forgotten? Or the car had broken down? Or, worse, there’d been an accident? She dug her fingernails into her palm, trying to stop her mind from spinning out of control.

Her phone vibrated in her other hand. It was a text from Paige. Finally.


. . . 

Avery held her breath.

long story j and laila r picking u up

Avery exhaled.

see u at my house

Of course everything was fine.

After gathering her overstuffed suitcase from one of the two baggage carousels and waving goodbye to Ms. Choi, Avery stepped through the airport’s automatic exit doors. The August rain had stopped, leaving the air damp and surprisingly cool. Her eyes swept over the half-­dozen cars waiting in the passenger pick-­up lane. None looked familiar.

A rusty little sedan rattled up to the end of the line, horn blaring. The passenger door swung open. Jaylen, an energetic thirteen-­year-­old with dark brown skin, bounded onto the pavement.