Book Review: Legend of the Pumpkin Thief by Charles Day

This book has been on my to-be-read list for a while now, but I wanted to wait until Halloween season and review it as part of my nine weeks of spookiness (though my spooky-book pile is much longer than nine weeks!).

A young adult horror novel, The Legend of the Pumpkin Thief follows a student named Nick as he navigates his way past the school’s most violent bullies, using his developing detective skills to determine why the neighborhood’s pumpkins and jack-o-lanterns are being stolen. At first he suspects an older woman who lives with her dog, but as Nick digs deeper into the mystery, he learns that the answer is not as simple as it seemed—especially as time ticks closer to Halloween.

This is a great read for young teens. It contains elements a middle- or high-schooler would enjoy: battling bullies, vying for the attention of a crush, and defending an annoying sibling from strangers. Best of all, the pace is compelling for a young reader, with short chapters and a plot that builds in intensity as the story progresses. It gets quite scary toward the end. As an adult reader, I would have preferred a bit more decadence with the imagery, but for a younger reader the descriptions were just right—enough to create a picture of the scene without bogging down the plot with details.  I will note, however, a few instances of profanity. Definitely used sparingly and only in appropriate situations, but something for a cautious parent to consider depending on age.

What I enjoyed most was the nostalgic quality of the Halloween portrayed in the novel. The kids in the book are not obsessed with their cell phones or their video games. Rather, they’re knee-deep in trick-or-treat pranks. The lack of adult supervision in this particular neighborhood brought me back to my own trick-or-treating experience (one year a white van tried to kidnap us!), where streets are dark and the spookiness of Halloween is allowed to run rampant. Indeed, Nick’s parents spend the evening plopped in front of the couch watching old-fashioned horror movies, leaving Nick and his younger sister to encounter the legend of the pumpkin thief on their own.

The ending came quickly—I wanted just a bit more resolution, but the way was left open for future Halloween adventures, which I’d very much enjoy reading, especially if they delve even more deeply into the details of the pumpkin thief himself, his history, and the appearance of his spooky companions.

Overall, this was a fun read worth the time of any fan of Halloween.