The Stars Did Wander Darkling

Author: Meloy, Colin
Description: In a sleepy seaside town in 1980s Oregon, Archie Coomes and his friends are convinced that an unknown evil has been unleashed on the town after his dad’s construction company opens the cliff beneath the old Langdon place–widely believed to be haunted–and the adults in town begin to act strangely.
Genre: Horror
Storyline: Plot-driven
Tone: Atmospheric; Gruesome; Scary; Suspenseful
Writing Style: Richly detailed; Attention-grabbing
Min/Max Grade Level: 5 – 8


Publishers Weekly: In this aesthetically eerie novel by Meloy (The  Whiz Mob and the  Grenadine Kid), set in 1987 Oregon, it’s up to a quartet of friends to save their small seaside town when a real estate development awakens a long-buried evil. The plan was to build a resort in place of the long-vacant Langdon House, a Victorian-era legacy of Seaham’s founding family—until excavation reveals the nearby promontory to be permeated with holes. Thirteen-year-old Archie Coomes, whose father owns the construction company, is looking forward to a fun summer with friends Athena, Chris, and Oliver, including a much-anticipated camping trip. But odd occurrences soon arise: an elderly woman mutters, “They shoulda left it hid,” local adults act strangely out of character, and Oliver’s “unexplained episodes” turn into increasingly vivid visions. All that, coupled with the arrival of three poetry-spouting newcomers in old-fashioned suits, causes the friends to find themselves delving into the town’s history and the true nature of the mounting threat. Evoking 1980s adventures such as The  Goonies and referencing horror flicks of various eras via the town’s resident sage—the owner of a Betamax-only video store—Meloy constructs an oddly ambiguous menace within a nostalgic summertime adventure involving cinematic chase sequences, uncanny occurrences, and psychological unease. –Staff (Reviewed 07/25/2022) (Publishers Weekly, vol 269, issue 31, p)

Kirkus: Kids save their town from an ancient evil. Archie, Oliver, Chris, and Athena live in Seaham, an economically depressed, small coastal Oregon town where many streets and landmarks are named after the  Langdons, a reclusive, wealthy, 19th-century fur-trading family. Archie’s dad was in charge of a multimillion-dollar project to develop a portion of the headlands, much to the dismay of Athena’s environmentalist parents and others in the community—but it’s been paused. Sinister happenings quickly take over the town and the adults in it after the appearance of three strangers who seem new to being human. Old photographs indicate some ancient evil at the heart of the town’s founding, and the adults are suddenly replaced with sticky, odd-smelling replicants. The story, set in 1987 with a cast of bike-riding kids, their older siblings, a helpful adult nerd, one character with psychic powers, and an ending that leaves room for a sequel, feels like a middle-grade adaptation of the  TV show Stranger Things. It’s a fun, creepy, attention-grabbing story, but a long and slow buildup culminates in a rushed climax and resolution, and the incomplete-feeling worldbuilding doesn’t quite allow readers to settle into the deliciously ominous truths introduced at the very end. Characters are cued as White. A fun read with a classic feel. (Horror. 9-13) (Kirkus Reviews, July 1, 2022)