A middle-grade mystery series that's spooky, creepy, and filled with gothic twists! Meet the Sinister-Winterbottom twins, who solve mysteries at increasingly bizarre summer vacation destinations in the hopes of being reunited with their parents—or at the very least finally finding a good churro.
“An absolute delight. If I have to die in a waterpark, I want to die in this one.”—Holly Black, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Cruel Prince
"Wickedly weird. . . . Will appeal to anyone who loved A Series of Unfortunate Events." —The New York Times
Meet the Sinister-Winterbottoms: brave Theo, her timid twin, Alexander, and their older sister, Wil. They’re stuck for the summer with their Aunt Saffronia, who doesn’t know how often children need to eat and can’t use a smartphone, and whose feet never quite seem to touch the floor when she glides—er—walks.
When Aunt Saffronia suggests a week pass to the Fathoms of Fun Waterpark, they hastily agree. But the park is even stranger than Aunt Saffronia. The waterslides look like gray gargoyle tongues. The employees wear creepy black dresses and deliver ominous messages. An impossible figure is at the top of the slide tower, people are disappearing, and suspicious goo is seeping into the wave pool.
Something mysterious is happening at Fathoms of Fun, and it’s up to the twins to get to the bottom of it. The mystery, that is. NOT the wave pool. Definitely NOT the wave pool. But are Theo and Alexander out of their depth?
Twelve-year-old twins Theodora and Alexander Sinister-Winterbottom, and their 16-year-old sister Wilhelmina, encounter the summer-vacation unexpected via White's (the Camelot Rising trilogy) archly told, gleefully macabre series opener. In the middle of a night marked by "urgency and candles," the siblings are transported to a mysterious home to stay with equally mysterious maternal aunt, Saffronia Sinister, who "by all appearances, had never encountered an actual human child before." Telling them to "find what was lost," she drops them off at the Victorian-flavored, unusually grim Fathoms of Fun Waterpark, which features a slide named Oblivion and a wave pool called Cold, Unknowable Sea. Owned by dour Mrs. Widow, the amusement park thrills adrenaline fanatic Theo and unnerves cautious Alexander as they wander the grounds under Wil's nominal supervision, avoiding the lone eatery's mince pie and seeking the recently disappeared Mr. Widow. The caper moves briskly toward a tidy end, popping with witty dialogue and gothic puns, and pitting the twins, their technologically distracted sister, and a newfound ally against avaricious forces while hinting at larger series mysteries around the siblings' parents and collective memories. Alexander and Theo are white; Wil has brown skin. Ages 8 12. Agent: Michele Wolfson, Wolfson Literary.
Macabre Middle Grade Mystery for Fans of the Addams Family
“The Sinister-Winterbottoms are looking forward to a family summer, but their parents abruptly change the plans in the middle of the night. Twelve-year-old twins Alexander and Theodora and their older sister Wilhelmina are dropped off with Aunt Saffronia, now stranded at a strange house in the care of a relative they’ve never met for the next few months. It quickly becomes clear she has no experience with children so her suggestion to visit a waterpark is eagerly accepted . . . until the siblings arrive at the front gates and realize Fathoms of Fun is equally as strange as their new accommodations. There are coffins instead of inner tubes and mausoleums instead of cabanas; the waterslides are tongues jutting out of the mouths of gargoyles sitting atop a tall, dark tower. Alexander, Theo, and Wil try their best to enjoy the vacation they’ve been handed, but the kookiness is too much to ignore and leads them to a disturbing mystery: The waterpark owner disappeared inside the Cold, Unknowable Sea, otherwise known as the wave pool. When Wil goes missing following a lead, the twins are left to sleuth on their own. Will they be able to save their sister and the waterpark before it’s too late?”
*Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from Random House Children’s Books through NetGalley in exchange for a review. All opinions are my own.
I grew up in the “A Series of Unfortunate Events” era so the cover of “Wretched Waterpark” was enough to grab me, but the synopsis pushed it over the top. Lemony Snicket’s famous series has been mentioned along with Scooby-Doo for marketing purposes, but allow me to enlighten you on something even more synonymous with the Sinister Summer series: the Addams Family. *snap snap* Aunt Saffronia is Morticia’s twin with pale skin, long hair, and a black dress that makes her appear as though she’s floating instead of walking. Fathoms of Fun is a dream, nay, nightmare for the lost souls in search of a resting place . . . pardon me, vacation spot. The mystery is simple and easy to solve for adult readers, but I’m not holding that against a book aimed at a middle grade audience. The macabre atmosphere and humor are immaculate, and the tease of book two has me jumping out of my skin in anticipation of the September sequel. My rating is five stars, and I’m urging you to walk, DON’T RUN, to pick up this book if the summer heat has you missing spooky season.
*Disclaimer: I read an uncorrected ARC so certain things might change before the final copy is printed.
Adoption: It is briefly mentioned that the oldest Sinister-Winterbottom sibling Wilhelmina is adopted.
Blood: There is a conversation about blood in chapters 12 & 13.
Dark Humor: The siblings have to sign paperwork before entering the waterpark, & it mentions drowning & lost souls.
Upset about the summer plans forced on her & her siblings, Theo says she’s “gonna walk into traffic now.” Alexander responds by offering to test out the sharpness of a knife on her hand. When Wilhelmina doesn’t respond in a responsible way, they wonder if texting her about getting matching tattoos or ingesting small doses of poison would get her attention. Later on the twins tell Wil a man offered them candy & a ride in his van, which receives the same distracted response.
Disappearance: The owner of Fathoms of Fun walked into the wave pool one day and never came back out; this occurred off-page but is described a few times. More missing persons are mentioned later on.
Spooky: If you’re trying to gauge how dark this book gets, especially for young readers, I would recommend you compare it to things like “A Series of Unfortunate Events” & Scooby-Doo but especially the Addams Family. That is the exact level of macabre atmosphere & humor the reader needs to be comfortable with. Expect a casual mention of coffins or a character with the surname “Widow” or a joke about death. If you’re curious about the direction of the series, the next book is about vampires.