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BOOK REVIEW: Small Spaces by Sarah Epstein

| 5 March 2019 | Reply

BOOK REVIEW: Small Spaces by Sarah Epstein

Walker Books
April 2018
Paperback, $19.99
Reviewed by Steph O’Connell

Young Adult / Thriller / Mystery


We don’t pick and choose what to be afraid of. Our fears pick us.

Tash Carmody has been traumatised since childhood, when she witnessed her gruesome imaginary friend Sparrow lure young Mallory Fisher away from a carnival. At the time nobody believed Tash, and she has since come to accept that Sparrow wasn’t real. Now fifteen and mute, Mallory’s never spoken about the week she went missing.

Sparrow glances over his shoulder at the popcorn stand, at my hiding spot that isn’t a hiding spot at all.
He knows I’m here.
He knows I’m letting him take another girl instead of me.
Grinning at me with his black and yellow teeth, I know he’s daring me to stop him. He wants me to come out and take Mallory’s place.
But it’s just another trick.
I keep hiding as my Sparrow flies away.

As disturbing memories resurface, Tash starts to see Sparrow again. And she realises Mallory is the key to unlocking the truth about a dark secret connecting them. Does Sparrow exist after all? Or is Tash more dangerous to others than she thinks?

IB: I see. So you really needed a friend? Someone to talk to?
NC: I wanted Mum and Dad.
IB: And then a new friend came, did he?
NC: I didn’t ask him to come.
IB: Is this a boy you’re talking about?
NC: No.
IB: A grown-up?
NC: No.
IB: Is he a toddler?
NC: …
IB: Is he a baby like your brother Tim?
NC: …
IB: An animal?
NC: I don’t know what he is.

Small Spaces is a gripping young adult thriller from debut Australian author Sarah Epstein, perfect for 14+ fans of Fleur Ferris and Rebecca James.



A Melbourne author’s debut novel about not being able to trust your own mind, and wondering whether it was yourself or your imaginary friend who perpetrated bad acts? Yes, please!

So many times while reading this book, I wondered where the author had been lurking when she recorded my childhood, what with the hunting for tadpoles, the strained maternal relationship, and constantly finding things moving in the shadows.

At times it was this book was incredibly engaging, and it was difficult to read fewer than 100 pages in a sitting, though overall the events weren’t completely shocking or scary which was what the blurb and hype were suggesting, but it did teeter on the verge of creepy several times.

It’s just a shame the pacing was a little off – it didn’t feel like there was a whole lot of character development for anyone outside of Tash, and there were quite a few times where the reader easily picked up on things and Tash seemed to have, but they were repeated… just to make sure the reader was up to speed. For switched-on readers, this could be rather annoying. 

But when all is said and done, this is a story about childhood trauma and not knowing whether you can trust your own mind as a result. With Tash as an unreliable narrator, readers are bound to keep turning the pages to find out how it all comes together.

Category: Book Reviews

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