by Marina Cohen
Roaring Brook Press
For release March 2016
Don’t be deceived by the gold and green turquoise lightness of the cover of The Inn Between. The story is nothing but dark and I believe that Marina Cohen has achieved her goal of a Stephen King novel for middle grade readers.
Eleven-year-old Quinn Martin is travelling by car with her best friend Kara Cawston and Kara’s family–parents and older brother Josh–to the family’s new home in Santa Monica. The two girls had been inseparable in Denver and the linking of their two woven frienship bracelets, which seems to intrigue the non-Norm man running Norm’s Diner, shows how close the two really are. After a weird bright light in the desert accosts the family car, they stop at the Inn Between, a gorgeous old-fashioned hotel straddling the border between California and Nevada, that promises “We’ve been expecting you.” (pg. 28)
As beautiful as the hotel is, the people within are very strange (and this is an operative word for everything at the Inn Between) and oddly overly hospitable. There’s the desk clerk Persephone, the elevator operator Sharon (for the elevaor they are not allowed to use) and the valet-doorman, Aides. And the guests are just as odd. From old Mr. Mirabelli who tells Quinn “They’re going to pull the plug” (pg. 34) to the little girl with the singed doll and Rico the guy who’d partied a little too hard and had come for a rest. Most scary though is a tall, unshaven man in a black and yellow ball cap whom Quinn notices pursuing them.
After the first night, Kara’s parents are gone, apparently with the van that had to be towed for servicing, and the three kids spend the time swimming, enjoying the food and just hanging out. But Quinn’s mind is perpetually troubled with memories of her little sister Emma and the guilt she harbours about her, and smells and sounds at the hotel continue to play on these memories.
When Josh goes awol too, Quinn and Kara go in search of Emma, convinced the crying Quinn hears is her young sister who had gone missing. But what they find starts Quinn realizing who the guests at the Inn Between really are and why they must escape, without Kara’s parents and Josh.
The Inn Between is a mermerizing read of creepiness and suspense with a healthy dose of action and psychological tension. Young readers who never get enough of spine-chilling drama (and it is very limited in youngCanLit) will be pleasantly disturbed by the eerie story, unnerving setting, and sinister atmosphere of The Inn Between. Marina Cohen has done it. She has written a spooky–but ghost-free–story about a place you wouldn’t want to visit and wrapped it in a cosy hotel robe of mystery and unsettling thoughts, without completely terrifying young readers, though there are some frightening scenes. Best of all, Marina Cohen has something to say about friendship and grief and guilt but does so in a wonderfully unique and horrific narrative.