A 16-year-old confronts evil in a North Carolina town.
Chris Buckley and his mother, Tara, leave Chicago and his born-again dad, who found God but abandoned the family. They return to Tara’s hometown of Solitary, N.C., and move into an isolated cabin in the woods, the former residence of Tara’s brother, Robert, who’s now missing. After defending fellow student Newt at Harrington County High, Chris tops the hit list of violent bully Gus Staunch, whose father owns half the town. Chris is repeatedly warned to stay off the radar and lie low—not an easy task, since things are seriously off-kilter in Solitary. An eerie man and his dog guard the town, which, oddly enough, is deserted at midday on Saturdays. Crazy Aunt Alice, with her live-in crow and mannequin “friend,” is less than hospitable to Tara and Chris. Then there’s creepy Pastor Marsh, whose sermons are on the dark side. Chris is also forced to look after his tippling mother, who’d rather go unconscious than face life. Chris enjoys his friendship with a trio of girls—kind Rachel, goth Poe and lovely Jocelyn, who catches Chris’ eye. As Chris falls for Jocelyn, he’s torn between staying out of harm’s way and finding the truth about Uncle Robert and other residents who’ve disappeared. In the first of four books in the Solitary Tales series, Thrasher deftly captures the essence of high school: “Nameless, faceless ghouls strolling by listening to iPods with blank stares.” Chris’ mounting terror of the unknown effectively intertwines with his panic at being the new kid at school. In addition to typical teen traumas of bad cafeteria food, locker mishaps and relationship anxieties, he’s caught in a spiritual struggle of dynamic proportions. Although he doesn’t believe in God, the malice surrounding him may eventually require help from on high. Chris and Jocelyn’s on-again, off-again relationship is intensified by the menace they both face. An occasional comic scene breaks the tension, as when Chris and Tara reflect on just how “dysfunctional” Aunt Alice is. Due to financial constraints, Chris doesn’t have a cellphone or car; he commutes primarily by bike. For much of the book, he has no Internet access, either, and hence no Facebook, which enhances the claustrophobia. Though pegged as suitable for teens and tweens, this one’s no more “young adult” than The Hunger Games, the Harry Potter books or the Twilight series. But instead of hype and hoopla, Thrasher generates authentic suspense and the feeling that something wicked this way comes.
Superior entry in the genre of Christian horror and teenage angst.