Wretched Waterpark (Sinister Summer #1)

Source: DRC via NetGalley (Random House Children’s, Delacorte Press)
Pub. Date: June 7, 2022
Synopsis: Goodreads

Why did I choose to read this book?

Kiersten White seems to be in this amusement park phase for some reason, and while I don’t usually read and review middle grade, I wanted to read through this one quickly to see if it was any better than Hide. I even requested this after I reviewed Hide, and was surprised that the DRC was granted to me. I’m glad that Random House/Delacorte doesn’t hold a grudge over one bad review.

What is this book about?

Three siblings (older sister Wil and younger twins Theodora and Alexander) are mysteriously sent to their Aunt’s house for the summer. She buys them tickets to the weirdest water park on Earth and tells them they have one week to find what was lost. The kids try to enjoy the creepy water park at first, and then mysteries draw them deeper into solving the problems they think they’ve been sent there to solve.

What is notable about the story?

This book is like if the Haunted Mansion employees escaped from Disneyworld and decided to open up their own waterpark. Coffin-shaped rafts, water slides made out of stones, cabanas that are actually mausoleums, and a restaurant that only has formal tea service and requires that you dress up (in a water park remember). The setting and mysterious magical origins of the kids (possibly a curse?) are original and eye-catching.

Was anything not so great?

You get no back story, no explanation. The kids just go along with all of this without asking any questions or refusing to participate. Theo and Alex were 100% on board with coffin rafts and hurricane force waves in the demon-mouthed wave pool. All you get is a few remembrances of their parents lighting a lot of candles and suddenly they were at their “Aunt’s” house. All of my experience with teaching kids for the last 17 years tells me that in this kind of situation there would be a lot of whining, pouting, and digging in of heels, not just blind following directions. The only believable element of the kids’ behavior is that the teenager Wil never looks up from her phone.

Putting myself in the shoes of my younger students I probably would have devoured this novel, but I would still have had a lot of questions about what the hell is going on here.

Side note: White also manages to wedge a little climate change statement in here which, I mean, I picked up on but seemed kind of gratuitous in a kid’s book.

What’s the verdict?

Going 3 stars on this one. Cool setting, meh characters, good mystery. I’m not sure why Kiersten went all in on amusement parks in her current books (I wouldn’t be surprised if Obi-Wan going to a space amusement park in Padawan!) but I’m looking forward to whatever she’s planning on after she gets this out of her system.

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