I bought this book as part of a Humble Bundle. This book wasn’t the reason I bought the bundle. I avoided it for a long time because the cover made it look like something I wasn’t going to enjoy – perhaps a romance or paranormal romance. But two things made me start reading it:
1) I’d read a romance by Marjorie Liu last year and it wasn’t horrible. I wouldn’t actively seek them out, but apparently they’re not all cheesy bodice rippers.
2) As part of reigning in my Story Bundle and Humble Bundle spending, I wanted to force myself to read the books I’d bought. While I’m solidly middle class, there’s no reason to be spending money on books willy-nilly and not reading them – even if they came as part of a bundle.
The book ended up being a pleasant surprise. It starts off a bit oddly because it’s a first person book told from inside the head of a crazy person. It’s a little unclear at first what’s real and what’s in her head; especially once strange stuff starts happening around town. Apparently Hanna, our main character, has found herself in a town that’s on the equivalent of a Buffy-verse Hellmouth. It’s been going on for so long that most of the residents don’t bat an eye at the crazy happenings. Also reminding me of the graduation episode of Buffy where the students let her know they knew Sunnyvale was crazy and she’d been protecting them.
In fact, I’d describe the general plot as a story in which the main character is a side character in a Buffy-like world. Her eventual love interest ends up being part of something like The Initiative (or whatever Buffy’s whiny-ass boyfriend in college is a part of), but our main character is just a random person in the town.
Actually, she’s from out of town, which allows her to give us the reader’s perspective on what’s going on, albeit translated through her crazy mind. This led to my early status updates here on Goodreads in which I thought at first she was a trans person due to the use of the slang “transy” and people saying stuff like “I can’t believe you’d go out with a transy”. Nope, it’s a transient – someone from out of town who can’t deal with the spookiness.
When I got to the end of the book, it turns out this is from Simon & Schuster’s Teen imprint. For any parents out there who are fans of horror/paranormal fiction and want to share with their kids – be mindful of the maturity level of your teen / your comfort level with what current American society says are “bad” or “immoral” things. On the maturity level – there is possession, graphic depictions of suicide, abusive parents, abusive children, and a crazy person’s thought patterns. On the morality level, there is casual teen sex (not graphically described, but not obscurely referenced either), descriptions of anatomy, a parental figure who sleeps with nearly everyone in town, and other things like that.
Overall, Hanna’s head was a fun place to be. She is nobody’s fool and her strange thought patterns lead to interesting sentences. The plot was a standard horror mystery in that the clues are constantly building, but unless you’ve read tons of these, the ending is not telegraphed. I constantly found myself surprised at what was going on. The dialogue of the high school age characters seems on point. Sure, I haven’t been one in a long time, but it neither seems too childish nor too much like adults. From my memory Ms Reeves avoids any slang that would cause the book to eventually become dated.
I recommend it – if you’re not just reading it a few minutes at a time as a diversion, it should be a 1-2 day read.