In this YA debut, a depressed teen becomes the latest victim in a series of paranormal abductions.
Jason Kaiden, gymnast and honor student at Daleside’s Arden High, is miserable. He’s a “skeleton walking the halls,” barely speaking to his former best friend, Corey Jade, and feeling invisible to the girl of his dreams, Lauren. One day after leaving gymnastics early, he wanders toward the river between Daleside and Engleburry. He experiences a waking vision of a car crashing off the bridge above and into the river, followed by a pink scarf drifting on the water. At home, with his family away for the weekend, he reads online about a string of missing person cases in which power-drained electronics at the scenes in question have been baffling police. Later, researching hauntings, he stumbles on a case from Lake Mowcrie, just 20 minutes away. Though it happened in the 1960s, the circumstances bear a striking similarity to the vision he had earlier of the plummeting car. Then his computer shuts off. His dog, Caleb, barks at his bedroom door. In complete darkness, Jason sees by moonlight that “a figure is perched behind my bed, hunched over and looking down at me.” From here, Parker surrounds readers with an emotionally raw nightmare. Jason’s surreal captivity in a cavern by a hideous, ghostly girl named Kaily might constitute the whole plot of less ambitious novels. But Jason’s stint in the Rift is merely the starting point of further YA drama and paranormal action in this first installment of a series. The enigmatic Director Carlyle, whose shock troops rescue Jason, helps describe supernatural phenomena in saying, “Living thoughts, emotions, and energies...are quantifiable aspects of life itself. The world is nothing but a tide of emotions and living energies caught in a dynamic cycle of ebb and flow.” While Jason uses his newly acquired knack for glimpsing the future to impress Lauren, he still feels a deep connection to Kaily. The themes of loneliness, bullying, and suicide undergo satisfying examination, enhancing a dark, sleek narrative.
This moody series opener deftly runs on teen angst and hallucinogenic visuals.