New dark fantasy from the author of the splendid Afterparty (2014, etc.).
As a young boy, Harrison Harrison, aka Harrison Squared, or H2, experienced a horrific incident in a boat (he tries to suppress memories of tentacles and teeth) that cost him his leg and left him with a morbid fear of the water. Now 16, equipped with an advanced prosthetic, he moves with his marine-biologist mother, Rosa, to the gloomy and forbidding coastal town of Dunnsmouth, Massachusetts, where she intends to pursue her research. As she goes out on the water, Harrison investigates the mausoleumlike local high school. Inside, it’s dim, dank and labyrinthine; the classes are nautically themed, with sidebars on the merits of totalitarianism and the reanimation of dead frogs. And the students seem unnaturally well-behaved. Harrison’s expected to swim in the basement pool and refuses; he finds the school lunch disgusting and, in the library, discovers a ghost that only he can see. Rosa’s boat vanishes. Harrison refuses to believe she’s dead. Somebody steals his prized comic book while leaving a note saying his mother is still alive. One of the students, Lydia Palwick, thaws a little and shows him how the students use a secret sign language to communicate. The author of the note turns out to be a half-fish, half-human creature named Lub; he’s one of the Dwellers who live in the sea beyond the harbor, and their elders are hatching horrid plans. Most readers will grin at Gregory’s deft, spiky parody of high school. For the rest, it’s a tale handled with confidence and control, with loads of salty, piscine atmosphere, but it’s perhaps a little too self-consciously reminiscent of Lovecraft or Clark Ashton Smith.
Superior, with plenty of crossover teen appeal.