Scream: The Spider Army by Jack Heath, paperback novel, 139 pages, published by Scholastic Australia in 2015.
Yvette lives in Axe Falls, a town where some very unusual things have been happening. A recent earthquake has left part of the high school damaged, but the kids still have to attend classes. During a food-tech class, Yvette sees a spider, but it is no ordinary spider, this one has a vivid blue streak down its back. Everyone in town has heard rumours of these blue-back spiders, rumours rife with mystery, disappearances, and death. Yvette sees more blue-back spiders, and the medical centre begins to be inundated with spider-bite victims, will Axe Falls survive the spiders?
Scream: The Spider Army is the second book in the Scream series. I’ve always thought these sort of books are best read after dark, and by torchlight, if possible, to give the maximum creepiness effect. Reading this book reminded me of nights curled up reading Goosebumps books as a child. The Spider Army didn’t disappoint in spine tingling scariness. The blue-back spiders are seriously creepy, and evil, especially the spider queen. Having suffered a couple of spider bites myself, I chose to read this book with the light fully blazing!
The story is well written, fast paced and exciting. It had all the right elements of scary fantasy for kids. I finished reading it very quickly, as did my eight year old daughter. She loved it and immediately moved on to one of the other books in the series, telling me that “Jack Heath is now my favourite author!”. I can see a lot of Scream books in our future.
All of the characters were described with enough detail to picture them clearly, and the reader was able to get to know Yvette and her brother Josh a bit more deeply. I really liked Yvette, her courage, and ingenuity, and the way she wanted to help and protect her brother and friends. All of the school staff that were mentioned seem very odd, and mildly disturbing. A school caretaker like Mr Mortimer would have been scary enough, without a plague of strange blue backed spiders as well!
Scream: The Spider Army is suitable for middle and upper primary school students. Though older children may also enjoy it, it is probably a bit too scary for younger readers. As an adult, it didn’t have quite the goosebumps inducing quality that it did for my third grader, but I still enjoyed the story a lot. I will be reading more in the Scream series.