“What’s more important? A stupid Valentine’s Day concert or saving the world from an army of ancient monsters?”

That’s the exact scenario, from a seventh-grader’s perspective, in Tales From Lovecraft Middle School #4: Substitute Creature. It can’t get much simpler than that.

Twelve-year-old Robert Arthur continues to explore the paranormal activity surrounding his new extraordinary school. Along with his best friends — including the bully-turned-best friend Glenn Torkels and Karina Ortiz, a 30-year-old ghost confined to the school — the kids find themselves snowed in at school during an unusual blizzard and without power, threatened by an ancient, unknown menace.

The kids are trapped with a new friend, Janitor Martin McGinnis and a new enemy, Lionel Quincy (a spoiled-rich kid), along with Robert’s Mom, the school nurse. Also trapped in the school is the substitute librarian, Miss Carcasse, who just happens to be a Zombie. It’s definitely dangerous combination. As if the situation couldn’t get any worse, everyone must escape a new terror: the Old Ones are fuzzy, little trolls that remotely resemble the Tribbles from Star Trek, sent to feed on Robert and his friends.

All sorts of complications arise by the book’s end, including characters being whisked off to alternate dimensions and monsters disguising themselves as humans. Surely, the young paranormal detectives will resolve the situation soon, possibly in the next book or two.

I enjoyed Book #4 much more than the previous book. The storylines work better when the trio of best friends work together, not when they’re sent on separate adventures. The characters (and by default, the readers) even learn a lesson about not judging a book by its cover. Overall, it’s a paranormal adventure that includes a moral ending. I like that.

Growing up is not easy. Defeating an ancient enemy that hides in plain daylight isn’t, either.

Strength: A great Young Adult paranormal adventure.
Weakness: Don’t create an interesting character, then send him away.
WTF Moment: Robert now seems to be telepathic with his two-headed rat, Pip and Squeak. Seems arbitrary.

Notable Quotes:
– “Things could always be worse.”
– “In five minutes we’ll be dead.”
– “There are fates worse than death.”
– “This day keeps getting stranger and stranger.”
– “Every time we cross over, something tries to eat us.”
– “You can go to the cafeteria with everyone else, or I’ll send you straight to the principal’s orifice.”

Review: 4/5