There are countless ways for authors to instill terror, but none so effective as exposing the cruelty hiding in the human heart. Jeff Strand does this – flawlessly - in his first mass market release. In a visceral narrative voice spiced with beguiling wit, Strand shows readers that humans are capable of far worse things than any supernatural monster.
When only twelve, Alex Fletcher discovers an awful thing: his parents don't want him around. After his petty theft from a local drug store, (sparked by a dare), he's summarily shipped off to boarding school at Branford Academy. Luckily for him, he makes fast friends with two of his three roommates, Peter and Jeremy. His third roommate isn't all that bad, but Darren is distant, quiet...always writing in a journal, mostly keeping to himself. However, as he slowly warms up, Alex senses something odd about the withdrawn boy. It unsettles him, but intrigues him, also.
All too soon, they discover Darren's true nature. A manipulative schemer with no remorse or conscience, Darren systematically dismantles their lives. Peter gets expelled, Jeremy is accused of attacking Darren, and suddenly Alex is cut off from help. He waits the school year out for Darren's next move. It never comes. Darren, however, hasn't gone away for good. He's waiting to finish the job. He'll keep coming back, again and again, until both his and Alex's lives bleed together into streams of violence and sinister manipulation.
The novel's tone is pitch-perfect. Strand masterfully captures the teenage voice, then transitions smoothly as the characters grow to adulthood. Also, he presents the reader with far worse horrors: dismissive parents who don't care, rigid schoolmasters bent on conformity at all costs, and unbelieving friends. Perhaps most importantly, there is light at the end of this dark tunnel...it's just a really long, bloody, dark tunnel.