"I'm living with ghosts. My memories have grown legs and now run up and down these halls. The apparitions are only loops, broken records as it were, but they're aggravated and bored, two attributes you never want in a ghost."
It feels kind of weird to call a dark, gritty and depressing book beautiful, but here we are. Despite the sick individuals and horrible circumstances that tainted these teenagers lives, there was beauty developing from the first chapter - that fragile but unique time of life where you feel young and free, looking forward to a summer with new friends and new adventures. The kids are foul mouthed and sneaky, but they're great at heart and their bond is just...beautiful. No other word for it.
I'm in love with coming-of-age stories anyway. There's something about the nostalgic bonding in small town adventures where kids bond together to face higher horrors. There's nothing paranormal in this one, it's effective as hell with old fashioned monsters wearing human faces.
Told through a singular point of view, I loved the main character Trey. He has a realness to him that shines through the pages, and I totally got his bonding with the new kid in town, Eddie, a young teen advanced for his years not only in language and daring but also in heroism. Throw in Candy with her lip gloss and tragic tale, the strange neighbors who don't seem fully aware of the horrible demons after them, and you have a grade A class of characters.
The adults aren't bad either - Trey's father in particular is well written as he is shown (through the characters present and then past reflections) to be the type of personality that can never shed the skin of guilt, not sloughing it off to continue growing. Despite that shame about his character, it was nice to have parents for the main characters in a coming-of-age who actually genuinely gave a damn about their kid, believed their stories from the start.
"Friends are better than pain-killers any day of the week."
It's a character driven story, which is the best kind, but the plot is a good one too. Enter the villainous adults - well structured enough to be realistic and creepy - and you have a chain of events that keeps you glued. Whether the kids were bonding over fun moments and growth, sneaking out of the house to cause chaos, fighting in the face of abuse to protect each other, or battling the creepy villains of the story, it was hard to put down.
I usually don't like when books go from the present back to the past, but Lorn did it in a way that works. He kept the passages short and musing, haunting with the beauty and tragedy that embraced the power of bad memories. Italicized and stylized, the author's talented writing ability made the reflections a joy to read, even if they were squeezing my heart. I'm glad the sad moment was revealed early so the shock of it didn't anger me. A wise choice not to save that for the end, a surprise to induce bitter tears - I'm glad the author prepared me gently. A lot easier on the emotions and held the story up.
This brutal book doesn't hold back the violent punches - there's vicious attacks, sick people, horrible scenes that won't be forgotten, and the author doesn't hold back shining a dark light in these kids lives.
It's almost five star ready, but I would have preferred a more drawn out after-the-fact. I wanted to see a few more pages talking about life afterward, and then a longer reflection in the present to explain why the narrator is talking now, and what's going on about it being his "final story."
I will definitely be checking out more by Edward Lorn - his writing style alone would have cemented that, but throw in the theme of fateful summers, coming-of-age and small towns, and it's even more guaranteed.