I’m not usually a horror fan, so when Erik Therme sent me his new release I had to first think about YA horror as a genre. [See Chunky Teen Soup and other #YA #horror tropes.] But I was interested in the book for two reasons. The first is that I read his debut novel Mortom (see my review here) and called it one of the most well-written books I’ve ever not liked.
The second is the way he published the book. It went through the 30-day reader-selection process at Kindle Scout and was selected for publication after making it to the final stages. Kindle Scout says, “Selected books will be published by Kindle Press and receive 5-year renewable terms, a $1,500 advance, 50% eBook royalty rate, easy rights reversions and featured Amazon marketing.”
[NOTE: for more on Erik’s publishing journey, see Crowdsourced publishing: An Iowa City author’s journey with Kindle Scout]
BlurbThe last thing Kaylee wants to do is participate in a childish scavenger hunt–especially inside the abandoned retirement home on the edge of town. When she finds a bruised, deaf boy hiding inside one of the rooms, she vows to lead him to safety . . . only to discover the front doors are now padlocked, and her friends are nowhere to be found. Kaylee is about to learn that not everything that goes ‘bump in the night’ is imaginary, and sometimes there are worse things to fear than ghosts.
- Book Title: Resthaven
- Author: Erik Therme
- Genre: YA Horror
Length: 220 pages
Release Date: Kindle Press (April 12, 2016)
Purchase Links: Amazon Universal Link
I have a little problem with Erik Therme’s books. I think they are terrifically written books with a great sense of pace and individual style and full of characters I really do not like. At all.
In Resthaven, the main character is fifteen-year-old Kaylee, who has transferred to a new school following her parents’ divorce. She’s furious at her parents, misses her old life and friends, and mortified when her mother forces her to attend a party given by one of her wealthy new classmates. Kaylee’s seething resentment holds the other girls up to a toxic lens as each of them reveals their own personal tragedies. She’s especially furious when the hostess takes them to an abandoned retirement home on the grounds of her house and sends them off on a scavenger hunt. Very soon the girls find themselves locked inside the crumbling structure, only to discover that they aren’t alone.
Author Therme ticks off the standard YA horror tropes in businesslike fashion. The building itself is not only abandoned and derelict, but almost completely dark because boards have been nailed across all window openings. The girls split up almost immediately, and despite the way they tell each other on a regular basis to stick together, they each keep heading off alone, facing the inevitable injury and danger as the building’s secrets are revealed.
And that’s where things got interesting for me. The girls are by turns mean, cowardly, jealous, and self-serving. They are capable of betrayal, stupidity, empathy, and the occasional nice gesture. Each of them is aware that she is outside of the popular crowd. Indeed, there is apparently another party that day to which none of them were invited. In other words, they are like almost every teenager anywhere.
The stakes rise steadily as the dangers multiply. And without providing spoilers, I can say that when it comes to the usual tropes we expect to see—characters bonding under adversity, perhaps forming romantic attachments as one girl’s twin brother arrives, or facing a pivotal dark moment that turns this into a coming of age story—well, those things don’t actually happen.
Instead we get characters who behave realistically under increasing pressure and danger. They struggle to make what they encounter fit into their world view, with only limited success most of the time. And at the end three of them take away the one thing—friendship—that, I believe, each wanted most of all.
So, yes. I don’t like horror. I don’t like the girls in Resthaven. But I do like Erik Therme’s writing. As I said about his last book, it’s just that good. Therme is not interested in having the story “cure” any of his characters’ problems. Most people aren’t any better off at the end than where they started, and character development is at best subtle. Therme is a writer who is more interested in poking his characters—poking them hard and then even harder—to see what they’ll do.
But unlike his last book, this one holds out some promise of the characters bonding as they are instead of as they are changed into by their experience. I would give Resthaven four stars. These characters aren’t for everyone. They certainly aren’t warm or adorable, or even particularly likeable. And the structure of the story itself—no chapter divisions and little imposed editorial structure—might not appeal to everyone. But if you like good writing, a sense of pace, plenty of atmosphere and danger, and a strong voice, then I recommend Resthaven.
**I received this book for free from the publisher or author in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.**