Flashback Fridays: You have to show them that you’re really not scared; you’re playin with your life, this ain’t no truth or dare . . .

You’re a bullied kid with a rough home life who doesn’t know what to do.  Especially when the King Kobra gang is after you.  So you pack what little you and and run away . . . to the shopping mall.

Do you remember:

Secrets of the Shopping Mall by Richard Peck (Laurel Leaf, c1978)

Barney and Theresa are friends who’ve had it rough in the city.  They decide to escape the gangs and family problems and take a bus . . . to a shopping mall.  Paradise Park might not be what either of them originally had in mind, but it’s as far as their money will take them.   So they decide to hang out in the mall during the day, hide out at night and sleep there, get their food from the food court and their clothes from the stores and stay safe.  But Paradise Park has secrets all it’s own.  The mannequins in the store windows come to life at night.  They’re kids–like Theresa and Barney and they live in the stores by night while posing as mannequins by day.  And they don’t trust outsiders . . .

The shopping mall denizens are in a war with another gang of kids, called the Mouth Breathers, and now they think Theresa and Barnie might be spies.  Now in running away,  these two friends might find they’ve only run into more danger and strangeness than they could ever imagine.

This odd piece of urban fantasy is a favorite of mine, read again and again as a tween.  There’s something about running away and surviving on your own that’s a draw when you’re a kid.  The fact that it wasn’t a simple survival story, but instead a bizarre fantasy that avoids the cliches of magic and mythical and goes for something very particular.  Reading the reviews, it seems a lot of readers enjoyed this book as kids, despite the adults in their lives being less than thrilled.  It’s one of those that you feel would have inspired a movie–even one of those ABC Weekend Special.

Looking over the comments I’ve found about this book, there’s some debate as to whether this is really a fantasy story.  Whether the kids who were “freezing” during the day as mannequins really were doing anything more than holding still.  All I can say is that when I read it, it felt fantastical.  I was under the impression the kids really turned into mannequins during the day. If the story itself is meant as a satirical critique, it doesn’t negate the fact that it’s an urban fantasy story.

Richard Peck is a prolific author of books for children and young adults  who won the Newbery in 2001 for A Year Down Yonder .    While some of his  older works have gone out of print, like his Blossom Culp  series, he continues to publish new books regularly.  For 2013 he has a new animal fantasy The Mouse with the Question Mark Tail.

Any fans of Secrets of the Shopping Mall?  Comments welcome!

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About Stephanie Whelan

I'm a children's librarian with a life-long love of all things science fiction and fantasy.

Posted on October 26, 2013, in Flashback Fridays, General Posts and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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