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Monday, October 04, 2010

The Devouring A Deliciously Creepy Halloween Treat

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

With Halloween fast approaching, everyone's got monsters on the brain, making it the perfect time to pose this question: What kind of creatures stalk your nightmares? Ghosts? Zombies? Psychotic circus clowns? Or something more mundane like spiders, snakes or wolves? Are your personal horrors, perhaps, of a more practical nature: fire, drowning, hospitals, abandonment, the death of a loved one? Whatever it is you fear, you'll likely find it between the pages of Simon Holt's teenage creepfest, The Devouring. It's like Stephen King with training wheels. But don't let that fool you - I've still got goosebumps.

The book opens with 15-year-old Reggie Holloway reading her 8-year-old brother, Henry, a bedtime story. Their mother (had she not recently walked out the door and not bothered to come back) would no doubt disapprove of sending a young boy off to slumber with such a dark tale, but Reggie's a horror buff whose tastes tend toward the macabre. So, she picks a spooky vignette from a handwritten diary she recently discovered at work. It's about creatures called Vours who steal human souls and inhabit their bodies, something so outlandish even Henry will recognize it as fiction. When Henry starts freaking out, Reggie realizes her mistake. What was she thinking reading him something like that before bedtime? She's so exhausted from playing mom she can barely think straight. And she's gone and spooked herself as well.

In the light of the morning, the whole story seems ridiculous. Except that Henry's changing before her eyes from her sweet little brother into something ... else. He's overdue for a reaction to their mother's swift departure, but his sudden rage seems extreme. Not to mention terrifying. Henry's acting strangely, muttering to himself, and becoming increasingly violent. When a death in their home elicits no reaction whatsoever from her once hypersensitive brother, Reggie's convinced - Henry isn't Henry anymore. He doesn't need a psychiatric evaluation, he needs an exorcism.

Reggie and her best friend, Aaron, will do anything to save Henry. It may already be too late, but they have to try. As they research the origins of the journal, they learn the chilling truth about the Vours. The creatures feed off human fear and Reggie's already terrified. Can she step into her worst nightmares to bring her little brother back? Is saving him even possible or has his soul been ripped from his body forever? The journal says nothing can stop the Vours, but what if it's wrong? And what if it's right? It's up to Reggie to find out.

The Devouring sucked me in so completely that I burned through it in a few short hours. Each page is creepier than the last, with an intense, unrelenting montage of nightmarish horror lurking inside its every paragraph. The heroes are a perfect blend of unique and relatable, frightened and fearless, vulnerable and valiant. Their courage made my heart pound, keeping my eyes seared to the page even when all I really wanted to do was burrow under my blankets, clamp my hands over my eyes, and chant, "It's not real. It's not real." The Devouring's perfect ending made me smile through my shivers. I may be jumping at every single creak the house makes, but I'm also clicking over to my library's website to get my trembling hands on the next installment in this deliciously spooky series.

Book trailers don't usually do much for me. This one, though, just might be creepy enough to do the book justice. Take a look:

(Readalikes: reminded me of Bad Girls Don't Die by Katie Alender and several Stephen King novels)

Grade: B+

If this were a movie, it would be rated: PG-13 for language (no F-bombs), violence and gore

To the FTC, with love: Another library fine find

1 comment:

  1. i work at a book store and its book like this one that are popular for teens right now. everything seems to be about the dark side.

    You write lovely reviews.


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