More than 6 years has passed since I reviewed the opening book in this series, MOTLEY EDUCATION. The feeling I had when finishing that story was anxious anticipation for what would happen next for main characters, Ebony and Fleishman, and their many challenges in this mysterious and ghostly setting.

What took so long for Dead Alley to make an appearance on the shelves?

S.A. Larsen explains it all in her author notes and not only was there COVID that caused a delay but also a shift in publishers. The wait is over and the sequel adds more tension and understanding to this world and characters. Here’s what to expect:

Sixth-graders Ebony Charmed and Will Fleishman are up to their graves with spirit training. That’s their reward for saving Motley Junior High from a fiery serpent. More homework.

But that didn’t stop them from secretly casting spells to find the dark elf that stole their friend Lance’s body. They certainly couldn’t leave it to Motley authorities. The last time Ebony left things to adults, her mother lied to her and a fire giant kidnapped her father (which she still believes is her fault).

When undead crows invade the boneyard and strange flower petals infect the ghost residents, they realize they are in over their heads. Clues point to Dead Alley – the forbidden section of the boneyard – where the dead have begun to be not so dead. When Lance’s spirit goes full-on berserker, the duo must find a cure. Before the infected ghosts turn zombie and Lance remains trapped there forever.


Since so much time had passed since that first book, I was glad to see a summary of the characters in the pages leading up to the main story. Even better were the back pages where Facts and Whatnot cover the Nine Worlds, Mythical Creatures and Characters, a Glossary, and many other highlights that immediately put me back at Motley Junior High. I strongly urge new readers to start with the first book though to gain full knowledge of the background, characters, and plot before diving into this one.

The excellent world building continues in Dead Alley. I found myself going back and rereading many of the beautifully written scenes. The depth and word choice gives readers a sense of being in the graveyard watching each scene unfold.

The third person narration alternates between Ebony, Fleishman, and their nemesis, Elli. It’s a perfect way to present the tale. Surrounded by a backdrop of Norse Mythology, the theme of trust level with friends will resonate with young readers. The ending hints there is more story to tell.

Gives this series a go and you will discover a creepy and engaging tale sure to please. A full out entertaining plot in a paranormal world.


As a little girl, S.A. Larsen believed her closet held secret passageways to magical worlds brimming with all sorts of creepy creatures – her favorite kind. Sheri never did find a ghoul or a goblin in her closet, only a half-eaten fluffernutter that her brother repurposed as a hockey puck. Her debut novel MOTLEY EDUCATION (former Leap Books, 2016) was released as a second edition by Ellysian Press, 2019. The book is an international multiple award-winning, fantasy-adventure for middle grade readers; this is the first book in the series. She’s also the author of MARKED BEAUTY (Ellysian Press, 2017), a contemporary-fantasy romance for young adults – also an award-winning novel. Her other published works can be found in young adult anthologies, community interest newspapers, and sports magazines (youth athletes/actors). Giving back to her writing community is important to her, and she does so as a @MixedUpFiles interview & giveaway coordinator, #MGLitchat co-host, and writing mentor for First Five Pages under Adventures in YA Publishing. She’s also part of the #SpookyMG crew over on, where she partakes in a #SpookySkypePanel that visits classrooms around the world to chat about reading, writing, books, and more! When she’s not chasing her characters around a cemetery or antagonizing them with the wonders of young love, she can be found in the land of lobsters and snowy winters with her husband and four children (yes, they all play hockey), a playful German Shepherd, and three kittens. 

(For more visit Sheri’s author website)


I hope you will join us next week! It’s here I share highlights from other individuals blogging about middle grade books. Many of the posts will have reviews, interviews, and tips on writing. Take a look at PAST MMGM POSTS.

It’s easy to participate. All you have to do is email me the title of the book or feature and a link to your blog at gpcolo[at]gmail[dot]com

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*Please note: these posts are not a reflection of my own opinions on the books featured. Each blogger is responsible for their own MMGM content and I do not pre-screen reviews ahead of time, nor do I control what books they choose. I simply assemble the list based on the links that are emailed to me.

About Greg Pattridge

Climbing another mountain...always striving to reach the next peak in my life and career.
This entry was posted in MG Fantasy, Middle Grade Book Reviews and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to DEAD ALLEY

  1. It’s great that a lot more spooky books are being published, but I’d love to see Larsen try a book with some hockey in it. Sounds like she would have the background. Thanks for your review!

  2. I haven’t read Motley Education, so read your review. Gave me a better understanding of Larsen’s new and spooky story. The world-building sounds engaging. I don’t share many spooky books, and this is one I should read! It sounds fun!

  3. Pingback: MMGM for April 17, 2023 | Always in the Middle…

  4. Brenda says:

    I so enjoyed the first two Motley Education books. The setting of the boneyard and the creepy main villain. I too am looking forward to her next book. Happy MMGM

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