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Skeleton Creek by Patrick Carman
Review by Gayle Surrette
Scholastic Press Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780545075664
Date: 01 February 2009 List Price $14.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

Ryan and Sarah live in the small town of Skeleton Creek. They're been best friends since they first met and have been getting in trouble ever since. Now in high school, they've teamed up for a school project to look at the history of the town. However, it seems that looking into the town's past is not something the adults want done and after a late night excursion to the Dredge, Ryan is severely injured, and he and Sarah are forbidden to speak or contact each other. Only Ryan and Sarah are not ready to give up.

Skeleton Creek is one of the most unusual multimedia stories that I've run into. There have been plenty of stories where you read the book and then watch some videos or play computer games that extend the fun, but this is different. Skeleton Creek is told by Ryan in his journal. The journal is an old fashioned lined notebook and the story is printed as if by a person not a machine. Articles and information he's gathered from other sources are taped into the journal. Ryan also illustrates some of his reports. Sarah, on the other hand, makes videos. Throughout Ryan's journal, you'll find that Sarah has sent Ryan a password for her website so he can see the newest video on their project that she's put together. Neither the journal nor the videos tell the story, you need both to make the story come together in one complete narrative.

Ryan and Sarah plan to do a multimedia research paper on their hometown. They know it was a mining town in the past. What they want to find out is why it's called Skeleton Creek. After all, that's not a name that encourages tourists. They find that the local newspaper seems to be missing some key issues, and when they try to break into the library after hours they're caught by the librarian who just happens to be sitting in the dark with a shotgun. While that might discourage some teens, Sarah's made of sterner stuff and Ryan follows Sarah on her adventures, as he's a writer at heart and curious.

They follow up clues and decide to visit the Dredge, a old abandoned behemoth of a mining machine in the woods outside of town. That's where Ryan is injured. From Ryan's memories and Sarah's video we learn that more is going on in this town -- perhaps murder, revenge, and secret societies.

Carman has a great touch with these two characters, they come alive on the page and in video. He's manages to portray concerned parents locking down their computers to eliminate them communicating and yet showing the simplicity by which the teens circumvent such net nannies. In fact, it was only in the technological aspect of the story that I had a moments of disbelief, but then I've been a system's operator and computer analyst and most people wouldn't care that there were more secure ways to do what the teens did, and that most teens would know about them. But it still didn't keep me from reading and jumping up to check out each video once I got to the passwords.

Don't be tempted to flip through the journal and collect the passwords and watch the videos first. That would really ruin the surprises and the cold shivers and hair raising tension that would otherwise come from reading and watching them in sequence. However, I will note that if you run your cursor over parts of the screen you'll find some fairly interesting Easter egg type material.

There is an Skeleton Creek volume two coming out which will continue the story as this one ends on one heck of a cliffhanger. I'm already practically pacing the floor waiting for the update on our intrepid investigators.

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