A bloody, cinematic romp through backwoods Illinois.
Reading Young’s debut book is a lot like going to the movies. The setup—teenage friends embark on a wild, ill-fated weekend aboard a houseboat—is straight out of a horror flick, and Young’s short, single-location chapters have the feel of movie scenes. Needless to say, fans of thrillers and slasher films will have plenty of fun joining lovebirds Peter and Maggie and company on their eventful trip down the Illinois River. Young’s exposition is particularly well-executed, alternating glimpses of Peter and his two friends’ drunken joyride to the marina with Maggie and a pair of sisters making their own stoned way there. In true horror-movie fashion, each group has some unsettling encounters that fail to make them turn back: The boys cause a ruckus at a wine shop after making moves on some older women, the girls get ogled by some locals at a grocery store, and Maggie’s stop to buy pot reveals she’s been distracting herself with a charming but decidedly creepy dealer while Peter’s been away at college. Once the gang’s out on the water, all hell breaks loose, with characters dying one by one—killed and consumed by mysterious shadowy figures who hunger for human flesh. Readers will require a high tolerance (or taste) for gore if they’re to enjoy the better part of Young’s book. Still, there’s more than just violence here: humor and a sly camp sensibility run through the story as well. Throughout, Young makes a point to note the songs playing at particular moments, “Bad Luck” and “Killing Me Softly” among them. While the mythology underlying the killings, featuring an ancient, proto-Aztec community of cannibals, seems more convoluted than the plot requires, Young nonetheless sustains suspense through the very last page, and his simple, straightforward writing makes for an engaging though not overly taxing read.
Hair-raising, funny and surprising; an indulgent page-turner that might keep you off the water.