The Crossroads Book Poster Image

The Crossroads



Ghost story offers little you haven't seen before.

What parents need to know

Positive messages

The main character steals, but his father makes him pay restitution.


Many deaths, some gruesome though not described; suicide by hanging; impalement; and two old people are frightened to death. An adult threatens a child with a knife.


References to making out and a love nest.

Not applicable

Disney, car brands, fast food restaurants.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Adults smoke and drink.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that, while there's no graphic violence here, there are references to lots of deaths, some rather gruesome, such as being impaled by a tree limb. Also, the main character steals, though he later either pays for or returns what he has stolen.

What's the story?

When Zack's mean mother dies of cancer he thinks she may be haunting him, so he's relieved when his father moves him and his new, nice stepmother to Connecticut. But there he encounters lots more ghosts, all involved in a complicated mystery involving a fatal bus accident, a local grande dame in the Mrs. Havisham mold, and Zack's grandfather, who was the local sheriff at the time. And both living and dead may be looking to take their revenge on Zack.

Is it any good?


For the first half of the book, the story seems assembled more than written, like a paint-by-numbers kit. Mean ghosts appearing and disappearing, a graveyard, spooky trees, small-town secrets, short sentences, and short chapters with cliffhanger endings -- yup, the gang's all here, though a bit better written than R. L. Stine. Still, it does make one wonder why so many horror writers can't seem to come up with anything new.

In the second half the author does come up with something relatively new, and a lot more interesting: a complex mystery behind all the supernatural deja-vu. Alert young readers will see the surprise twist coming almost from the beginning, but they may not anticipate the positive effect all this trafficking with ghosts has on Zack's character, which, along with a refreshingly loving stepmother-stepson relationship, makes for a more than usually satisfying ending.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about why horror is so popular. What is the appeal? Why do people enjoy being scared? What is the fascination with ghosts? And why are they so often portrayed as evil?

Book details

Author:Chris Grabenstein
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Random House
Publication date:May 1, 2008
Number of pages:325
Publisher's recommended age(s):8 - 12

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Kid, 10 years old May 16, 2010

Ghosts, Trees, and Mysteries

This is one of my favorite books! Out of all the hundreds I have read, I has got to be one of the best. Nothing in this book really concerns me.
Parent of a 6, 9, and 11 year old Written byscrymi February 15, 2011

not for kids that get scared easily

This is his daughter. I loved the book but i love scary books and i thought that it was quite good.
Adult Written byAquanaut May 28, 2009

A good mystery -- with nice and nasty ghosts!

This is the author's first young adult book, and it is winning major awards. For those familiar with Grabenstein's adult mysteries this will come as no surprise. I thought the plot might be too complex for readers younger than the "young adult" category, but its success says otherwise (which tells me that our young readers are perfectly capable of enjoying a plot with twists and turns. Even though there are some pretty nasty ghosts, the story contains no real gore, and the good definitely outweighs the bad. As a grandparent, I enjoyed the book very much and have bought a copy for my oldest grandson.