I love the Sticky Pines series! Both The Bigwoof Conspiracy and The Thing at Black Hole Lake are hugely entertaining, funny and weird stories that follow Lucy Sladan's investigations into the paranormal, the strange, in her hometown of Sticky Pines. It's 'Stranger Things' meets 'The X-Files' for children; a series my classes have devoured like sweet popcorn. The third installment is perhaps my favourite yet, although there's still the fourth and final 'The Wrath of the Blob' too! 'The Valley of the Strange' is neon-weird, sugar-sweet and electrically funny. It's so much fun and, like the best popcorn, it's impossible not to stop devouring every page.
Lucy Sladan has made the biggest, most bizarre discovery of all time ... but still no one believes her. Even her best friend Milo Fisher is not convinced. But his father knows she is on to something. Soon Lucy is in a race to stop Mr Fisher's monstrous efforts to uncover the source of the sticky-pine sap that is making his fortune ... and so risking the destruction of the world.
What makes the Sticky Pines series work so brilliantly is the grounding of the relationships of its main characters against the increasingly bizarre revelations unfolding around them. In 'The Valley of the Strange' Lucy Sladan's relationship with both her dad and her friend Milo are seriously put to the test. Without giving too much away, Lucy's dad Silas's mind is altered and he becomes like a teenage wannabe rock star to hilarious and embarrassing effect. Meanwhile, Milo is desperately vying for Lucy's attention. His attempts to dance with her and express his feelings for her are really touching and sweet. By the end, however, a decision he makes and what happens to him could change everything. As it is the third book, there is a sense that Lucy, Milo and their friends are growing up into more mature teens, while Silas is definitely regressing! As with the other books, Dashe Roberts writes laser-sharp dialogue and witty one-liners to get into these characters' heads with such a sense of fun and mischief. All this grounds the weirdness so well.
Dashe Roberts also brilliantly builds the mystery and slowly unveils more details about the strange shapeshifters, until ramping up the strangeness at the end. And, oh, how much we learn about who the Pretenders really are and just how they have been hiding out in the valley! There are links made to world mythology and a twist about who the true villains are. The ending is explosive and electrifying, setting up a final book that promises to be epic!
What a fantastic series! If I haven't said it already, Sticky Pines would make for a great children's TV series. Right, onto the next...
Thank you to the author for my copy to review!