Crater Lake Evolution


By Jennifer Killick
Published 20th May 2021 | ISBN 9781913102647

It’s five months since the Crater Lake Year Six alien invasion school trip from hell, and Lance and his friends have struggled with the transition to high school. But now things have got strange in their hometown of Straybridge: there’s been an explosion at the university, a mysterious creature has escaped, the town is under curfew and Lance’s mum is acting seriously weird. Cut off from help can Lance reunite Katja, Chets, Ade, Big Mak and new friend Karim, to tackle an enemy straight out of their nightmares…

The hilariously terrifying sequel to middle-grade comic horror bestseller Crater Lake.

8 in stock (can be backordered)

Praise for the book

‘Jennifer Killick has done it again! Crater Lake Evolution is wickedly smart sci-fi horror, with some seriously creepy moments and some important things to say about friendships and how they can change on us.’ Liam James @notsotweets / bookwormhole

‘A delicious mix of spooky action and relatable humour.’ Fiona Noble, The Bookseller

‘This fast paced adventure story is the perfect follow-up to the popular Crater Lake. I was nervous going into this book, because everything about book 1 is just so special. However I shouldn’t have been worrried, the characters we know and love are back complete with fresh additions, and this is another fantastic read.’ Andy Midwinter


Praise for Crater Lake:

  • ‘This is howlingly funny horror for beginners, Jennifer Killick, the author of the Alex Sparrow series and Mo, Lottie and the Junkers, has a fine ear for comic dialogue. She also makes little stabs at educational “norms”, especially the social eugenics of secondary school transfers – Lance knows he will never get into Bing, the selective school Chets is heading for. It’s also big on heart as the children reveal their secret “weaknesses” and so gain the strength they need.’ Alex O’Connell, The Times Children’s Book of the Week and included in The Times 20 Children’s Books for Summer 2020
  • ‘A darkly hilarious treat for those of eleven plus.’ Philip Womack, Literary Review
  • ‘This is the fifth book by Jennifer Killick and it contains everything that we have grown to love from her writing. Realistic and personable characters, authentic dialogue and a cracking sense of humour. Somehow she manages to make even the most surreal characters and situations seem believable. But this time she has upped the ante a little and made the perfect horror/thriller for children 9 +.’ Mister Bodd
  • ‘The perfect balance of creepy, gross and funny.’ Library Girl and Book Boy 

3 reviews for Crater Lake Evolution

  1. Jacqui Sydney (verified owner)

    Warning: contains spoilers for Crater Lake.

    Unlike many who read Crater Lake, for me it was an impulse buy. I had made a trip to my local bookshop with the intention of only buying A Sprinkle of Sorcery by Michelle Harrison and spotted that title alongside it on the table displaying the newly-released books. At that point – to my eternal shame – I hadn’t read any of Jennifer Killick’s other books and was just starting to use Twitter as a medium to discover new reads. Crater Lake was a title which had been popping up over and over again and, curious to see what the fuss was about, I thought: ‘Why not?’

    Although I’ve always been a fan of science fiction, up to that point much of what I was reading fell very firmly into the fantasy category – books filled with strange and exciting new worlds, and magic and witchcraft. Not because I didn’t want to read books like this but because in the main, they just didn’t exist, or if they did I wasn’t seeing them reflected on the shelves of the bookshops I was visiting. A few days after purchasing the original title, we went into our first national lockdown and after reading Sprinkle, I moved onto that – hoping to find an escape from what was going on around me. And escape I certainly did, into a book which it is really very unfair to label just as science-fiction because it is also extremely funny in parts, is crammed full of adventure and carries a strong message about the importance of friendship and perseverance, with some of the best characterisation I’ve ever read.

    For anyone who is yet unaware of the first book – and if you are, you really need to address that – the plot relates what occurs on a Year 6 residential trip like no other, one spent at the location of the title. There, our hero Lance and his classmates discover an alien plot to take over the world, which involves the would-be invaders taking over their human hosts one-by-one while they sleep. After finding themselves in terrible danger over and over, eventually Lance and his friends are victorious and life goes back to normal. Until now.

    Since we last met Lance, he has transitioned to high school and is enjoying that activity so beloved of Year 7 boys – playing a video game through the wonders of modern technology, engaging remotely with friend Chets when we meet him once more. Lance is updating Chets as to the health of his mother, which has been poor since she went through the stress related to Lance’s experience at Crater Lake but of late has been much better; following this the boys discuss the sad rift that has opened up between a couple of their mutual friends. Full of hope, Lance also broaches the subject of adding Karim – a new friend he has made at high school – to their online group, something that Chets is reluctant to do in case it sends out the wrong message to the others.

    As the discussion moves on to Lance’s Christmas tree, which he has yet to decorate, the boys are startled by a sudden boom, strong enough to make the house shake. Rushing to the window, Lance sees a plume of black smoke rising into the sky from across the other side of town – a sight which Chets describes as apocalyptic – before numerous flashing blue lights appear in the distance. Lance then heads downstairs after being called by his mother and the two of them watch the breaking news reporting a large explosion in their home town of Straybridge – one which has yet to be explained, but is thought to have taken place at the university campus.

    Frightened by what has happened, Lance’s mother tries to call Nadia – a friend who works at the university and who happens to be Karim’s mother – as Lance phones Karim. Karim reassures him that Nadia had been safely at home but has just headed off to the university to find out more, as she is concerned about the experiments she has been running. When Karim tells him that there are several different departments there, all running different research projects, Lance starts to speculate as to exactly what sort of research has been going on and if there was anything dangerous in the labs.

    Having finished speaking to his friend, and with the rolling news carrying on in the background, Lance and his mother start to try to decorate their tree. With nothing new to report, the news details Straybridge’s status as the country’s first SMARTtown – an area in which lots of investment has been made in science and new technology. It is several hours later that a news conference is finally broadcast, held by the Chief of Straybridge police and the Communications Officer of the SMARTtown project. This reveals that not only has there been a significant explosion at the university, but that one of the research projects housed there involved living test subjects – one of whom is unaccounted for. With the town now under curfew, Lance and his friends must overcome their differences and come together again to defeat the new horrors that await them. Things are different from before, however, because not only is the danger greater than it was previously, but it now lies much, much closer to home…

    There are so many things I want to say about this book but I really don’t want to include too many details here to spoil it for anyone who is – as I was – eagerly anticipating reading it. Let me just say that there are lots and lots of little nods to the original that made me smile as I encountered them the whole way through the story, and which will delight other readers as much as they did me. Having said that, please do not think that you need to have read the first title to enjoy this, because that is not the case at all. This works perfectly as a stand-alone book and any background that is needed is covered flawlessly and seamlessly so that if you haven’t read Book 1, you will not even notice its inclusion.

    As before, it is really doing Jeniffer Killick an enormous disservice to say that this is a science fiction title because it covers so many genres. Packed into the story is a great deal of the humour for which she is well-known and which acts as a perfect contrast to the scary parts. And believe me, there are some very, very scary parts in this book. Like a great many of my colleagues in school this week, who are trying to get to grips with teaching in class and remotely at the same time, I haven’t slept well and twice have found myself reading this in the middle of the night. There is one point in the book in particular – set in Lance’s bedroom, when he is supposed to be asleep – which had my heart pounding as I sat in bed, in the dark, reading this on my Kindle, imagining that I was experiencing what he was. The book is not too scary however, and many children of Year 5 age and above will revel in their not being molly-coddled by the deliciously creepy parts of the story, whether reading alone or sharing with an adult or in class.

    As someone who spends a lot of time with children, I am very familiar with the way in which they act and speak and Jennifer has again captured these aspects of her characterisations with pinpoint accuracy. As Lance narrates our story it is exactly as a boy in Year 7 would, rather than what an adult believes a child of that age would say, which takes an awful lot of observation and skill as a writer. This is true of all the children within the book, with their little quirks and habits, and acts to make the story that much more credible.

    Something that I was particularly delighted to see in the book is the introduction of a second character with a long-term health issue. Jennifer Killick has been quite open and honest about her Ulcerative Colitis on Twitter and elsewhere and while that is not the condition affecting the individual in this book, there will be a great many children reading this who will be thrilled to see themselves represented here. Following the Black Lives Matter protests of last year, many of us in schools have tried our best to ensure that the titles we read and share with our children better reflect the diversity of our society – not just with regard to the colours of our skins, but also different family set-ups, abilities and health conditions. Crater Lake has proved to be a popular class reader in many schools and this will too – not just because it is a fantastically exciting story, but because a huge amount of PSHE will be covered by discussing the differences displayed so empathetically here.

    I think it is fair to say that I absolutely loved this book – possibly even more than the original title – and I consider myself extremely fortunate to have been able to read it ahead of publication, as I know that the number of readers through Net Galley were limited. It is such a wonderful read that it is one that I have also pre-ordered a real copy of – something I do not do with all of the titles I read through that site. To Net Galley, to Firefly Press and to Jennifer Killick, I would like to say an enormous thank you. It can only be a magnificent 5 out of 5 stars.

  2. Tracy Curran

    The bugs are back! And whilst that is SERIOUSLY not good for Lance and co, it’s fabulous news for every reader who enjoyed Crater Lake last year. The 2020 middle grade release, written by Jennifer Killick and published by Firefly Press, seemed to create more impact than the meteor that not only made the crater at Crater Lake Activity Centre but brought alien spores with it. And it’s not surprising that the first book went down a storm – it had been on the edge of my seat and, most importantly, kept me wide awake! But now it seems the bugs were not defeated after all…

    Five months after the year six school trip of nightmares, Lance and his friends are no longer a tight -knit group. Struggling with the transition into high school, things have got tense. But nothing reunites a friendship like the threat of an alien take-over and some seriously strange things are happening in the group’s hometown of Straybridge.

    After an odd explosion at the university, the town is put under a precautionary curfew. But Lance’s mum is acting weird and he’s certain the bugs are back. Now it’s down to him to heal the rifts that have cracked his crew apart so together they can battle to save their loved ones, their home…and the world.

    Just like the first book, this brilliant sequel kicks off with spine-tingling action, a fast pace and bags of sharp banter. Killick has the uncanny ability to nail dialogue between twelve year olds and it is the interaction between Lance’s loveable, but humorously dysfunctional group that make these novels such a fab read. Every character brings their own distinct personality, their own very relatable issues and, in the case of the sequel, their own axe to grind. The group has fallen apart and yet it is their deep bond and their ability to overcome the challenges that face them that makes them so powerful…so loveable…and, in fact, so highly functional at battling the enemy. This is a group whose strength is equal to those in Stranger Things and The Goonies. Furthermore, as an adult fan of The Walking Dead, the whole group ethics and plot was right up my street.

    Crater Lake Evolution doesn’t offer quite the same spooky setting as Crater Lake. However, with the threat being so close to home-or even inside Lance’s home-the stakes are at an all-time high. Not only are their own lives at risk but the lives of everyone they hold dear are under threat. I loved that the bugs had evolved and I also loved the clever way the spores were being transmitted- it not only made sense but made the plot fresh and unpredictable. The only brilliantly predictable things was Don’t. Ever. Fall. Asleep.

    As with the first book, this is not for the faint-hearted. Your palms will be sweaty and your heart will be thumping but, again, Killick keeps the action within the boundary of age appropriateness as long as horror is your genre. You may not want to read it under cover of darkness but rest assured, if you do, you’ll feel like part of the group.

    Overall, this is another cracking read which not only delivers a creepy, blood-pumping plot but which explores the difficult realities of transitioning into high school, the pressures young people face, the strength and beautiful nature of friendship and the power of teamwork and unity. It is as heart-warming as it is chilling, as funny as it is scary and I guarantee you are in now danger of falling asleep whilst reading it.

  3. Liam James

    So pleased to report that Jennifer Killick has done it again! Crater Lake Evolution is wickedly smart sci-fi horror, with some seriously creepy moments and some important things to say about friendships and how they can change on us. Highly recommended

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