Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The Path of Names by Ari Goelman

The Path of Names by Ari Goelman is a summer camp story with a mystical, paranormal twist.

Dahlia would rather be at math camp. Or magic camp -- she'd really, really rather be at magic camp, practicing her sleight-of-hand with other kids who don't think card tricks are dorky. But she made a deal with her parents: one session at Camp Arava, socializing with other kids who share her Jewish heritage, in exchange for a week at magic camp later in the summer. Dahlia resigns herself to nature hikes and mosquito bites. But almost as soon as Dahlia arrives at Camp Arava, strange things begin to happen. She sees two little girls in old-fashioned clothing who seem to disappear into the side of her cabin -- a trick she knows requires lots of special preparation. There's also a surly caretaker, an overgrown hedge maze, and a spooky legend about a man who once lived on the land where the camp was built. All of these bits and pieces seem connected somehow to David Schank, a rabbinical student from nearly 80 years ago, who may have stumbled over a powerful secret in his studies of Kabbalah -- a secret which put him in terrible danger. As Dahlia learns more about what Schank discovered, will she find herself in danger, too?

This impressive first novel manages to be creepy and fascinating. Dahlia's grumpy and begrudging attitude toward camp reads authentically for a kid her age, and many of the secondary characters are likewise distinct and interesting. The mystery is not too easy to solve, and the paranormal elements are genuinely spooky, though not overpoweringly so. Definitely recommended for readers who enjoy this sort of story.

(Reviewed from a copy borrowed through my library system.)

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