Wretched Waterpark (The Sinister Summer #1)

by Kiersten White (Author)

Reading Level: 4th – 5th Grade

Meet the Sinister-Winterbottoms: brave Theo, her timid twin, Alexander, and their older sister, Wil. They're stuck for the summer with their Aunt Saffronia, who doesn't know how often children need to eat and can't use a smartphone, and whose feet never quite seem to touch the floor when she glides--er--walks. When Aunt Saffronia suggests a week pass to the Fathoms of Fun Waterpark, they hastily agree. But the park is even stranger than Aunt Saffronia. The waterslides look like gray gargoyle tongues. The employees wear creepy black dresses and deliver ominous messages. An impossible figure is at the top of the slide tower, people are disappearing, and suspicious goo is seeping into the wave pool.

Something mysterious is happening at Fathoms of Fun, and it's up to the twins to get to the bottom of it. The mystery, that is. NOT the wave pool. Definitely NOT the wave pool. But are Theo and Alexander out of their depth?

Kirkus Reviews

Young goths will be all-in for the trippy mysteries.


Readers who enjoy quirky mysteries will fall in love with the clever and relatable Sinister-Winterbottom twins, who will solve the mystery before their aunt shuffles them off to their next adventure.

Publishers Weekly

Twelve-year-old twins Theodora and Alexander Sinister-Winterbottom, and their 16-year-old sister Wilhelmina, encounter the summer-vacation unexpected via White's (the Camelot Rising trilogy) archly told, gleefully macabre series opener. In the middle of a night marked by "urgency and candles," the siblings are transported to a mysterious home to stay with equally mysterious maternal aunt, Saffronia Sinister, who "by all appearances, had never encountered an actual human child before." Telling them to "find what was lost," she drops them off at the Victorian-flavored, unusually grim Fathoms of Fun Waterpark, which features a slide named Oblivion and a wave pool called Cold, Unknowable Sea. Owned by dour Mrs. Widow, the amusement park thrills adrenaline fanatic Theo and unnerves cautious Alexander as they wander the grounds under Wil's nominal supervision, avoiding the lone eatery's mince pie and seeking the recently disappeared Mr. Widow. The caper moves briskly toward a tidy end, popping with witty dialogue and gothic puns, and pitting the twins, their technologically distracted sister, and a newfound ally against avaricious forces while hinting at larger series mysteries around the siblings' parents and collective memories. Alexander and Theo are white; Wil has brown skin. Ages 8-12. Agent: Michele Wolfson, Wolfson Literary. (June)

Copyright 2022 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.

Review quotes

A JLG selection!

"Like a big waterslide that you scream all the way down, only to laugh in relief and get right back on, this book is gothically hilarious and an absolute delight. If I have to die in a waterpark, I want to die in this one."—Holly Black, #1 NYT-bestselling author of The Folk of the Air series

If you like stories about mostly perfectly nice children in imperfectly spooky situations, you'll adore Kiersten White's Wretched Waterpark! It's both give-you-the-chills-creepy and laugh-in-a-room-by-yourself-funny. Full of heart and bravery and the most wonderful weirdness.—Lora Senf, author of The Clackity

A timeless and charming romp of mysterious gothic delight for fans of Neil Gaiman, The Mysterious Benedict Society, and Hotel Transylvania. I want to live in this world!—Delilah S. Dawson, NYT bestselling author of the Minecraft Mob Squad series and Mine

Everything I want in a creepy middle grade book: wonderfully odd characters, mystery and humor, a murderous gothic waterpark. Dangerously delightful."—Jacqueline West, NYT-bestselling author of The Books of Elsewhere and Long Lost

Packed with wordplay and mock-gothic mystery, this first title in the Sinister Summer series is perfect for fans of Lemony Snicket, Edward Gorey and Roald Dahl.—Shelf Awareness

Gleefully macabre.—PW

Witty prose, droll humor, literary allusions, and unexpected details make this a delightfully middle grade Gothic read.—The Bulletin

Kiersten White
Kiersten White has never been a lifeguard, camp counselor, or spa masseuse, but she is the New York Times bestselling author of more than twenty books, including Wretched Waterpark, the first book in the Sinister Summer series, and Beanstalker and Other Hilarious Scarytales. She lives with her family near the beach and keeps all her secrets safely buried in her backyard, where they are guarded by a ferocious tortoise named Kimberly.

@kierstenwhite on Twitter
Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Publication date
June 20, 2022
The Sinister Summer

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