Book Review: Room 13 by Robert Swindells

Blurb on the back:

Somebody was in there. Somebody – or some thing . . .

There is no room thirteen in the creepy Crow’s Nest Hotel, where Fliss and her friends are staying on a school trip. Or is there? For at the stroke of midnight, something peculiar happens to the door of the linen cupboard next to room l2. And something is happening to Ellie-May Sunderland, too – something very sinister . . .

A gripping page-turner from a master of spooky suspense, award-winning Robert Swindells. Don’t read this under the covers at midnight!
Read more at https://www.penguin.co.uk/puffin/books/1004509/room-13/#Ge5O1RDa5vap5qGQ.99

Short Review:

A creepy story about a school trip to an English seaside town that re-imagines the Dracula story for kids.  Fliss has a bad dream on the eve of going on her school year’s week long trip to Whitby, only to see that the dream is coming true as the week goes on. Atmospheric and tense throughout, this is a great introduction to horror for kids aged 8-11.
Four out of five Storgy typewriters
Other books like this: Hydra and Blitzed by Robert Swindells

Longer Review:

The book starts with Fliss having a creepy dream. The next day she is supposed to go on her school trip to Whitby, the Yorkshire seaside town, also know as the place where Dracula’s ship crashed ashore in the famous novel of the same name by Bram Stoker. Trouble is that dream seems to be coming true. Fliss and her friends are caught in the middle of a little horror tale happening right under the noses of the adults. One of the class is sleep walking and gong into a broom cupboard that at the stroke of midnight magically turns into Room 13. The class mate is getting sicker and sicker as the week passes. Fliss and her friends start to dig deeper into this impossible mystery, until they are caught out of bed and get into a load of trouble with the teachers, who of course don’t believe their impossible story of a magical room that only appears at midnight.
There are many things I loved about this novel. The characters were great. I was transported back to my childhood. In fact, I when on a similar school trip to Robin Hood’s Bay, which is also mentioned in the novel, right around the time this book was first published, way back in 1989. Robert Swindells perfectly captures the way in which certain types of teachers speak to a whole class of kids. He also captures the feelings of being away from home on your first school trip, spending an entire week away from your parents. This all adds to the tension in the novel, how everything is strange and new, tinged with an underlying anxiety and excitement.Room 13 2
The story builds beautifully. The tension creeps up on you like a shadow with a knife. The ending ties together cleverly in a way I don’t want to spoil for you but really hope you read. It is a masterclass in storytelling, like a scary story around a campfire that you just don’t want to turn away from, even though it’s giving you the heebie-jeebies. And Robert Swindells won the Children’s Book Award for it.
Even though this came out when your parents were young, it hasn’t aged – unlike your parents. Okay the kids don’t have mobile phones and things like that, but you won’t miss those things. The themes and characters are still relevant and exciting.
In sum, Room 13 would be a perfect introduction to horror. You’ll not wake up having nightmares, but you’ll probably want to turn the light on and check the wardrobe door is shut before you turn out the lights, so hopefully the bedbugs don’t eat your toes. But, hey, that’s the fun of horror stories. They aren’t for everyone. Some people don’t like being scared. Those of us who do have a library full of stories available to us that explore the darker parts of our imaginations, and dare to think things other people are afraid to – and in that horror is a liberation and an education of the soul. Room 13 is a great place to start, written by a truly great children’s author.
Reviewed by Daniel Soule

Hydra is available from Penguin here.


Roberth Swindells.jpg

Robert E. “Bob” Swindells (born 20 March 1939) is an author of children’s and young adult literature. Born in Bradford, the first of five children, Swindells worked for a local newspaper after leaving school aged 15. He served with the Royal Air Force and held various jobs before training as a teacher. His first novel, When Darkness Comes (1973), was written as his thesis while in training. Swindells combined writing with teaching until 1980 when he took up writing full-time. He first won the Children’s Book Award with Brother in the Land (1985), a novel set in a post-apocalyptic world. Swindells was a supporter of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and is quoted as saying that the work “… came out of my own anger and frustration … you can’t kill selectively with nuclear weapons, you wipe out millions of people …” Swindells also won the award for Room 13 (1990), Nightmare Stairs (Short novel, 1998) and Blitzed (Younger readers, 2003). His young adult novel Stone Cold (1993), which dealt with homelessness, won the Carnegie Medal in 1994. Swindells is married, lives in Yorkshire and has two daughters and three grandchildren.

Reviewed by Daniel Soule

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