In this novel based on a true story, two victims of a day care facility run by sexual predators grow up together and become best friends, until events from their past catch up, and the friends drift apart in two very different directions.
At its heart—despite the stormy undercurrent of sexual abuse—Metzger’s debut is a buddy book about an evolving friendship. Johnnie and C.K. take turns telling the story in alternating first-person chapters, and the dual-narrator device is put to excellent use; the relationship dynamic between the boys feels rock-solid real. In believable dialogue, Johnnie’s and C.K.’s voices are instantly identifiable and entirely distinctive, and their interactions always come across as natural. Occasionally, there’s a suspicious lack of detail—Johnnie will repeatedly refer to his “favorite video game” but then go out of his way to avoid naming or describing it—although it’s not a terrible distraction. What doesn’t feel real, though, are the depictions of abuse. Slowly parceled out over time in brief italicized flashbacks, Johnnie’s barely there, repressed memories, paired with C.K.’s still-vivid recollections, read like something from a Stephen King novel: It’s not just straightforward sexual abuse—it’s satanic. The foreword insists that the novel takes inspiration from real-world events, which may very well be the case, but true or not, it’s somewhat difficult to buy into; instead, it seems unnecessarily sensationalistic. Still, this page-turner has excellent pacing, plenty of memorable characters and an overall voice that seems to “get” this deep childhood friendship and all of the complex and scary emotions that come with it.
A haunted, dawning horror creeps through this story, and when the revelations appear, it’s difficult to put down.