290p. Delacorte. 2013. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-0-385-74309-9; PLB $19.99. ISBN 978-0-375-99094-6; ebook $10.99. ISBN 978-0-307-98087-8. LC 2012005363.
Gr 11 Up—This book has the pacing of a Stephen King movie, and it never lets up on the gruesomeness. Ry Burke's boyhood was riddled with brutal abuse and near death at the ruthless hand of a father whom he referred to as the monster. As Ry became older, his father's violence intensified. Then one morning, after being told not to bother his mother because she was sick, Ry knew that something was wrong and proceeded to investigate. What he saw caused him to make a courageous decision that would forever change his life and his family's. Flash-forward some years later to the '80s, and readers find 19-year-old Ry's father in prison and his mother and younger sister using the countdown to a forthcoming meteorite crash as a diversion from the grim existence on their barren family farm. When they find out that there was an explosion at the prison and that the father has escaped and is headed home to seek revenge, the news shatters Ry's fragile psyche, forcing him to resurrect a trio of imaginary childhood friends (the all-knowing Jesus Christ, kind and gentle Mr. Furrington, and bloodthirsty Scowler) for protective support. The metaphor of the meteorite countdown enhances the tense, dark, and creepy chill factor of this gritty, well-written thriller. It's a perfect choice for mature horror readers who are looking to bridge the gap between YA and adult selections.—Sabrina Carnesi, Crittenden Middle School, Newport News, VA
A gripping horror-thriller that is evocative of some of Stephen King’s best work but has a voice and twisted perspective all its own. Daniel Kraus takes care in the opening chapters to establish a rich setting and complex characters, including pensive Ry, his endearing kid sister, and his troubled mother. A subtle and rising tension underlies these scenes and is amplified by chapter headings that count down to the impending impact of several small meteorites speeding toward their rural Iowa town. The arrival of an escaped prisoner with disturbing tales of Ry’s imprisoned father, Marvin, sets the enthralling central story into motion. Kraus’s plotting is masterful, with surprising twists, eerie parallels, and scenes of terror meted out for maximum effect. Marvin is a compelling and disturbing figure, prone to bouts of madness and grotesque violence (“Merchants and neighbors alike . . . suspected the man was a horror and they were right.”). Consequently, readers may find certain scenes challenging. However, Marvin’s actions—and Ry’s attempts to thwart them—raise vital questions regarding the nature of evil. Ry’s struggle against his demented father takes a mesmerizing psychological turn when the arrival of one of the meteorites upsets Ry’s delicate mental state. His psyche fragments into three parts, corresponding to a group of imaginary friends he used to survive his dad’s violence when he was much younger. Ry transforms as he listens to the sometimes conflicting counsels of kind Mr. Furrington, wise Jesus, and violent Scowler, and the result is a fascinating inner and outer battle for survival.

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