The Suburb Beyond the Stars
by M.T. Anderson
Scholastic Press, 2010

The Suburb Beyond the Stars is the sequel to The Game of Sunken Places, a children's/young adult fantasy novel, with a good dose of horror added into the mix. While The Suburb could be enjoyed without reading the first book of the series, I would recommend starting at the beginning if possible.

Gregory and Brian are busy; having won the game, they are now responsible for creating the next round for whichever hapless players come along. Brian has decided on a more modern theme, a gumshoe story, with gangsters who turn out to be mythical creatures (this is a game run by ancient fairies, after all). But something is going on -- despite the official truce between the Norumbegans and the Thusser, the Thusser hoard is definitely up to something sinister. Brian is attacked by a supernatural creature on his way home from school, and their cousin Prudence hasn't been in contact for a while -- which is unusual.

The boys take a break to check up on Prudence, and discover that the woods are gone, and Prudence is nowhere to be found. Now her formally remote cottage is part of a new subdevelopment, and her neighbors are very odd. Worse than odd, actually. They seem to be possessed. And decidedly unhelpful when it comes to locating Prudence.

The story revisits a number of places and people familiar from the first book in the series, but everything is changed, and usually for the worse. This volume is a bit darker than the first, which was already pretty dark for a book that is at the younger end of the YA spectrum. It does have a lot of Anderson's humor, both sarcastic and silly, and maintains the light and easy reading style of the earlier book, still without sacrificing fulsome descriptions of a fairly complex world.

This was a good read, but not as good as the first book in the series. It was a bit slow to start off, and the comic relief did not meld as well into the story as one might hope. However, this is still better than most YA fantasy out there, and particularly the fantasy-horror genre. Anderson has very good descriptive writing with strong visual imagery, but without becoming bogged down in the glossy made-for-movie-adoption feeling than many children's books fall into these days.

Oh, and be warned, this book ends with a serious cliff-hanger. You might want to have the next book in the series, Empire of Gut and Bone, ready at hand.

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