Two decades after his debut novel, The Perks of Being a Wallflower (1999), Chbosky returns with a creepy horror yarn that would do Stephen King proud.
“Mom? Will he find us?” So asks young Christopher of his mother, Kate, who has spirited him away from her abusive mate and found a tiny town in Pennsylvania in which to hide out. Naturally, her secret is not safe—but it’s small potatoes compared to what Christopher begins to detect as he settles in to a new life and a new school. His friends, like him, are casualties, and that’s just fine for the malevolent forces that await out in the woods and even in the sky, the latter the place where Christopher comes into contact with a smiling, talking cloud that lures him off into the ever dark woods. “That’s when he heard a little kid crying,“ writes Chbosky, and that’s just about the time the reader will want to check to be sure that no one is hiding behind the chair—or worse, and about the scariest trope of all, which Chbosky naturally puts to work, under the bed. Christopher disappears only to turn up a little less than a week later, decidedly transformed. But then, so’s everyone in Mill Grove, including his elementary school teacher, who harbors an ominous thought: “Christopher was such a nice little boy. It was too bad that he was going to die now.” As things begin to go truly haywire, Chbosky’s prose begins to break down into fragments and odd punctuation and spelling, suggesting that someone other than the author is in control of the fraught world he’s depicting. One wonders why Kate doesn’t just fire up the station wagon and head down the Pennsylvania Turnpike rather than face things like a “hissing lady” and a townsman who has suddenly begun to sport daggerlike teeth, but that’s the nature of a good scary story—and this one is excellent.
A pleasing book for those who like to scare themselves silly, one to read with the lights on and the door bolted.