The Children’s Book Review | August 26, 2019
Beware the Back of the Bus: A Florida Horror Story: Book One
Written by Stefan Lind
Age Range: 12+
Paperback: 294 pages
Publisher: Independently published (August 19, 2018)
What to Expect: Middle School, Friendship, Mystery, and Thriller
Here’s a book to jolt readers right into back-to-school mode with its anxiety-inducing ‘new kid’ theme! Let us begin with the disclaimer found at the beginning of the book:
“There are many dangerous situations and activities described in this book. They are all being done by professional children’s book characters. Never attempt to do any activity depicted in this novel without an adult’s express permission.”
The prologue sets the scene with two students, Rosita and Scott, trapped within what seems like a different dimension of the world accessed through school bus 4711, in which despicable horned wolves and a ghost-like horseman dwell.
In chapter one, Manatsawee, an immigrant from Thailand, is living in a new town (and country) and it’s her first day at her new school. As she walks to the bus stop, she sees two posters of missing children, both of whom went missing one week apart from each other while on their way home from school on bus 4711—Manatsawee’s bus route. When she boards the bus for the first time she notices that something about the children on board the bus does not seem right, and once they leave the bus they seem to behave more like average middle school students—but they have no memory of any conversation or action that took place while on the bus. With each day that Manatsawee rides the bus, the thrilling mystery of the missing students begins to unravel.
Stefan Lind has weaved elements of realism—the struggles of making new friends in a new school—into a setting in which supernatural forces certainly appear to be at work. These supernatural forces stir up Manatsawee’s emotions causing her to doubt herself and her ability to fit in, and they make the reader question whether the horror story that appears to be playing out is real or a figment of Manatsawee’s imagination. The frightening scenes are well spaced and heighten the sense of urgency to unravel the mystery.
The interesting characters and the way in which they connect propels the story along: Quiet Marie from the bus becomes her talkative school buddy. Is Evan the bully from the back of the bus or the nice boy Marie describes him to be? And what of the middle-aged bus driver with his curious charm that hangs from the rear-view mirror?
Manatsawee’s Thai heritage is also present throughout with words exchanged between her mother and herself, her empowering abilities in Muay Thai boxing, and the scatterings of Buddhist teachings:
“Nothing good, and nothing bad lasts forever, so live in peace with what you have now, knowing that it will not last forever.”
Readers that like to seek out a little darkness and fans of the popular Netflix series Stranger Things will likely be enthralled. With an unexpected and cliffhanger ending that relates to the foreboding bus number 4711, it will be interesting to see which direction book two takes. Will it continue on with the same story or will book two be a brand new direction with a new set of characters and eerie oddities?
Buy the Book
About the Author
Stefan Lind was born in Sweden to a mother who surrounded herself with books. From her, Stefan got his love of the written word at an early age, and on his thirteenth birthday she gave him the gift of a typewriter. That typewriter, worn out after many years of hard use, was left in the old country as Stefan emigrated to the United States of America and settled in sunny Florida. A devoted father of four and a loving husband of one, he spends his days sipping strong coffee and writing words meant to inspire a new generation of readers and writers.
Dedicated Reviews allow authors and illustrators to gain prompt visibility for their work. This non-biased review of “Beware the Back of the Bus: A Florida Horror Story: Book One” was sponsored* by Stefan Lind. Learn more about getting a book review …