Publication: March 30, 2015, by HarperTeen
Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Mystery, Thriller, Paranormal
When Stephen is forced to move back to the nowhere town where his father grew up, he’s already sure he’s not going to like it. Spencer, Michigan, is like a town straight out of a Hitchcock movie, with old-fashioned people who see things only in black-and-white. But things start looking up when Stephen meets the mysterious twins Cara and Devon. They’re total punks–hardly the kind of people Stephen’s dad wants him hanging out with–but they’re a breath of fresh air in this backward town. The only problem is, Cara and Devon don’t always get along, and as Stephen forms a friendship with the charismatic Devon and something more with the troubled Cara, he starts to feel like he’s getting caught in the middle of a conflict he doesn’t fully understand. And as Devon’s group of friends, who hang out in a cemetery they call The Playground, get up to increasingly reckless activities to pass the summer days, Stephen worries he may be in over his head.
Stephen’s fears prove well-founded when he learns of Spencer’s dark past. It seems the poor factory town has a history of “bad times,” and many of the town’s oldest residents attribute the bad times to creatures right out of an urban legend. The legend goes that the only way the town will prosper again is if someone makes a sacrifice to these nightmarish creatures. And while Stephen isn’t one to believe in old stories, it seems Devon and his gang might put a lot of faith in them. Maybe even enough to kill for them.
Now, Stephen has to decide what he believes, where his allegiances lie, and who will really be his friend in the end.
I felt like I just got burned. Heather Brewer has stunned me with an electrifying novel set in the POV of a reckless teenage boy who's about to discover the secrets behind a creepy town. For real, I just can't believe what I've read, as it's surely one of the best books I've read in 2015, with creepiness and absurdity to the fullest extent.
"But that's where he was wrong. I didn't need distance. I just wanted to feel normal again. The way I had before Mom started rambling about monsters. Before we'd had to have her medicated and locked away, so she wouldn't hurt herself... or us."You see, I've always wanted to live in a small town. Having to live in a town where everyone knows each other and the 'town gossip' is always flying around with some new crazy rumours about you and your family is the coolest. And living on a farm? That's totally even better and more worthy of a great novel setting. Of course as the cliché goes, small-towns can be the most scariest places to live. Doesn't it suck when you just move to one and you already feel that you don't fit in, and adding to that there are some secrets about the past and its people?
That was definitely coming from Stephen’s situation in this book. His story is pretty basic, but I can tell you that things get worse when they’re supposed to get better. Stephen and his father leave their home in Denver and move into a small-town with only 814 people in Michigan. When they arrive, Stephen already hates the situation and longs for his mother who’s in a mental hospital back home where she rants about “monsters.” When he meets Cara and Devon, two twin siblings coming from a frantic house with their strange mother, his world is turned all around as he falls in love with Cara and is brought to participate in Devon’s wicked games and the stunts that he and his friends perform. Soon after, rumours of some winged creatures are brought about, and things get even worse to a breathtaking ending.
“From the time I was four until I turned eight years old, I was terrified of dead ends. I’d somehow convinced myself that whenever you saw those signs they were warnings. Of the horrors that awaited you at the end of those roads, those streets. Of monsters. but there were no monsters here. Just me and Cara.”
I had mixed feelings when flipping onto the first page here. You see, there are so many negative reviews throughout. I guess that I can say that I understand why, but THIS WAS TOO GOOD TO SAY BAD THINGS ON. The beginning was a little dull and confusing, but as we fast-forwarded into complete angst (which is a good thing in this situation) and romance, I was on a jetpack. There were a few comparisons that I saw through its rate of captivating me like Winter’s Bone. If this turned into a movie, it’d be a total weak bad movie that wouldn’t catch anyone’s attention, but as a book, it was perfect. Know what I mean?
Though many had not enjoyed the presence of Stephen’s protagonist role, I certainly did. Yes, he was lost and did many regrettable things, but that was the point. He learned from his mistakes, and by the end, he became confident and less depressed than who we learned him to be when we first met him. He made his own decisions, no? He rebelled against his father and grandmother as his personality sent him to go figure out what the hell is happening in his town and why he has to deal with it, especially since he never even heard of the place before his father brought him over. He was a protagonist like someone Stephen King would create, someone who’s willing to go out and take the risk because he’ll regret it later and will want to know the answer. He did things that he never would have done in the beginning, like fall in love with Cara, and drink to a hangover-mode. I personally loved him and some crush-feelings definitely built onto me as he was the perfect guy.
Another point that I recognized immediately was that there weren’t a huge bunch of characters who were classified as “main.” Since this was taken from the POV of Stephen himself, we got a better connection and relationship with him as he’s pretty quiet to those around him. His father, Cara and Devon probably were the supporting main characters, and everyone else barely was there, though some had shredded important details onto us that we never paid attention to in the beginning. (HINT: You’re all gonna burn!) DAMN WAS THIS A MYSTERY, which gets me to my next point…
A mystery like this with a mixed-in paranormal aspect is so, so COOL. I actually never saw the paranormal aspect coming, though the summary kind of got me thinking. What I liked was that no one had figured out the legend or secret until the middle half of the book, where we had been beginning to wonder where this book will take us and what is that spectacular ending that everyone’s talking about. Don’t lose your hope, or else you’ll lose a fantastic ending that we’ve all been waiting for!
What really left me shocked was the chemistry between Stephen and Cara. I loved that chick from the beginning, and Brewer made her someone who readers even felt that we could trust, until we got busted all over. Yeah, her brother was stupid as fuck and I hated him to death, but that definitely was the author’s intention. That make-out scene sure was heart-flipping, and I loved that Stephen took the nerve to kiss her in the beginning. At some points in books, I believe that it’s totally OK for the romance to start early, as teenagers are young, reckless and only drink “peachy fizzy drinks” just as Stephen explained.
"I watched water stream from the tips of Cara's hair and down her face. I was about to tell her she was beautiful, when she kissed me."
One can say that this book sucked, but I am begging you to go for this. It's more unexpected than the actual unexpected, and all of the plot twists made me feel so dull that I didn't see them coming. Face-palms were all over the place, as well as gorgeous romance, some paranormalcy (but nothing too major), friendship and a choking plot that left me drooling for more, after one sitting of one of the best books of the year. May your spring be even brighter with the beautiful piece of literature that I will never forget about!