The author of the Skeleton Creek and Trackers series continues to explore multiplatform narratives with this tale of phobia treatment gone awry.
Two years of therapy have not helped 15-year-old Will Besting overcome his acute fear of crowds, and his parents are willing to try extreme measures. These include packing him off with six other phobic teens for treatment with pioneering therapist Rainsford at Fort Eden, a cluster of cold concrete buildings in the middle of a dark wood. Armed with only his homemade recording device and an MP3 player, Will investigates the brutal nature of Rainsford’s cures. Carman’s attempts to build a psychological thriller are hampered by both characters and climax. Will’s observations of his fellow teens via monitor combine with his disregard for patient confidentiality to create an uncomfortable sensation of voyeurism, making it difficult to feel sympathy for him. The supposedly evil Rainsford, on the other hand, seems largely unthreatening until multiple epilogues provide insight into the motivation and process of the treatments. The other teens feel like color-coded numbers, there to advance the plot and devoid of personality beyond their phobias. A downloadable app will provide multimedia content on mobile devices; this is due in August 2011, some three months before the book’s scheduled publication date.
Carman’s dedication to integrating digital content with print is admirable, but as a standalone book, this thriller doesn’t thrill. (Mystery. 10-14)