________________ CM . . . . Volume XXII Number . . . .September 25, 2015


After Dark.

James Leck.
Toronto, ON: Kids Can Press, 2015.
252 pp., hardcover, $18.95.
ISBN 978-1-77138-110-9.

Grades 5- 9 / Ages 10-15.

Review by Lacey Hall.

**** /4


“Don’t worry Charlie….you just make sure you keep filming. Is the camera on?”

“Sure,” I said, pressing Record and aiming it at Miles. He straightened up, flipped his goggles up onto the helmet and looked directly into the camera. “This is Miles Van Helsing, June twenty-fourth,” he started, then glanced at his watch, “at 8:47 pm. I’m about to investigate the Baxter residence for signs of paranormal activity and the presence of unknown humanoid creatures. Assisting me will be Charles Harker, who is behind the camera.”

“Good luck, Van Helsing!” I cried.

He grimaced and ducked a little….”Just keep the camera rolling,” he said and jogged up the driveway, his backpack bouncing up and down behind him. I turned the camera around and held it out at arm’s length. “This is Charles Richard Harker, on June twenty-something at a quarter past a mole. I’m currently standing at the bottom of the Baxters’ driveway. Miles Van Helsing, a Grade A nut-job, is here searching for people who can run very fast. I suggested he’d have more luck at the local running track, but he insisted on inspecting his neighbor’s house for signs of abnormally quick individuals. I, for one, hope he finds what he’s been looking for so that I can go home and go to sleep. Over and under, Charles Richard Harker."


On summer holidays, Charlie Harker finds himself stuck in Rolling Hills, a quiet town where his mother grew up. Helping his mother and siblings renovate their great-grandfather’s old inn is not what Charlie had in mind for his break at all. When Miles Van Helsing, Charlie’s new neighbour, comes running out of the dark one night, screaming about paranormal activity, everything changes. At first, Charlie writes him off as a young kid with the brain of a conspiracy theorist; however, he, too, starts noticing strange things happening around town until he comes to the conclusion that Miles might be on to something. Together, they set out to determine what’s happening in Rolling Hills.

     The progression of the novel, itself, was slightly slow paced in the beginning. Readers meet numerous characters, including Miles who is an integral part of the story. His ravings of paranormal activity seem far-fetched, and, as the reader, I kept wondering where the story was going to go. Would we find full-fledged zombies or vampires, or would there be some kind of twist? There were moments where I felt the author wasn’t leaving himself enough time to explain, and so when the ending arrived, it felt quite rushed. The story does leave the reader hanging though, indicating there will definitely be a sequel, and so there is redemption in the author choosing to take it slow in the beginning.

     For those that enjoy quirky and wisecracking characters, Charlie Harker is your guy. James Leck creates a refreshing 15-year-old main character through Charlie's sarcastic tone and sense of humour, and the way he interacts with the other characters in the novel. While the plot was interesting enough to propel the story, it was Charlie who kept my attention.

     Overall, I would gladly recommend After Dark and feel it would be a great read for those that enjoy sci-fi, thriller type stories.

Highly Recommended.

Lacey Hall works at Kwantlen Polytechnic University and started her Masters of Children's Literature program in Fall 2015.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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