The Skeleton Flute

S. & S./Aladdin. Aug. 2024. 368p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781665946605.
Gr 4-8–A novel that starts out as a realistic family tale and quickly turns into a fantasy by way of the “be careful what you wish for” adage. Sam’s world is rocked with the announcement of his parents’ separation, and he will do anything to change that reality. He gets that chance upon meeting Bones, a scraggly man who offers him an odd flute and promises his wish will be granted after playing it. Sam wakes to a world where his parents are happily married but every other aspect of his life has changed, leaving him bereft and alone. He meets Lena, a girl who is experiencing the same altered reality, and together they uncover a dark historical event that explains the origin story of Bones. Sam and Lena begin spending most of their time in altered realities and with different versions of themselves, fighting monsters and Bones to reclaim their lives and free their other selves. A showdown ensues that features an exorcism, frogmen, soul eaters, bat monsters, and more. Initially, Allen captures the heartbreak of parents separating at an age when children have neither the verbal nor emotional vocabulary to communicate how deeply they are affected. But the bulk of the story features an alternate monster-filled wasteland, as well as a multitude of additional characters and speculative theories that bog down the momentum. The historical and familial aspects are more nuanced and rich than the supernatural and science fiction elements.
VERDICT For readers who enjoy descriptive fantasy with a touch of horror.

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