Smaller Stakes YA Fantasy: Harvest House by Cynthia Leitich Smith

Release Date: April 11, 2023
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult


Deftly leading readers to the literary crossroads of contemporary realism and haunting mystery, Cynthia Leitich Smith revisits the world of her American Indian Youth Literature Award winner Hearts Unbroken. Halloween is near, and Hughie Wolfe is volunteering at a new rural attraction: Harvest House. He’s excited to take part in the fun, spooky show–until he learns that an actor playing the vengeful spirit of an “Indian maiden,” a ghost inspired by local legend, will headline. Folklore aside, unusual things have been happening at night at the crossroads near Harvest House. A creepy man is stalking teenage girls and young women, particularly Indigenous women; dogs are fretful and on edge; and wild animals are behaving strangely. While Hughie weighs how and when to speak up about the bigoted legend, he and his friends begin to investigate the crossroads and whether it might be haunted after all. As Moon rises on All Hallow’s Eve, will they be able to protect themselves and their community? Gripping and evocative, Harvest House showcases a versatile storyteller at her spooky, unsettling best.

My Thoughts

In Harvest House, the stakes may be lower, but they are no less important. This isn’t a story where the world is ending or a wicked overlord is obsessed with the main character. Hughie is just trying to live his life honestly and do what he believes is right. Sometimes that means refusing to perform in a racist play, and sometimes it means helping the spirit of an Indigenous woman find peace in death. The world won’t end if he fails, but he’ll know things weren’t set right. Most teens aren’t saving the world between classes, they’re in positions like Hughie is in. They have the chance to step up to the hard thing because it’s the right thing or take the easy way out and carry the guilt. Teens need to see that they have a choice, and that they aren’t making that choice alone. They can (hopefully) rely on their friends and family to support, guide, and encourage them. 

Read the rest of my review at

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