(I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher)
I love a good scary story. Especially at this time of year. But I am very particular about my scary stories. I like suspense and chills but I do NOT like explicit violence. When the buzz started up among my library colleagues about this book, I knew I had to get my hands on a copy. It sounded like the perfect Autumn read.
Ever since he almost drowned in the ocean three years earlier, ten-year-old Jack Peter has been afraid to leave his home in a small coastal Maine town. It is implied that Jack Peter may have something akin to Asperger's which further isolates him and his family. Jack Peter's only friend is Nick. Nick was there the day the two boys almost drowned and they share a special bond even though Nick is beginning to want to distance himself from Jack Peter. Jack Peter begins to draw monsters and it seems like those monsters are taking on a life of their own. Strange appearances begin to happen in the small town and Jack Peter's mother, Holly, begins to hear strange noises. She turns to a local priest for help. His housekeeper tells her about local shipwrecks and ghosts and convinces Holly that her family may be experiencing a haunting. Jack Peter's father, Tim, tries to find a rational explanation for the strange appearances but cannot find an explanation. While Holly, Tim, and Nick try to make sense of what is happening, only Jack Peter knows the truth.
This is such a hard book to describe! Especially without giving away spoilers! The story is very atmostpheric. It takes place in the winter when all of the Summer people have fled for the season. This makes the town feel isolated and remote. The descriptions of the apparitions are chilling and the reader is forced to try and make sense of what is happening. Are these truly the ghosts of shipwrecked souls? Why are they plaguing this one family? The majority of the book gives the reader a feeling of unease and uncertainty. What exactly is going on here? There is less overt horror and more the suggestion of frightening things. It isn't until the very end of the book that Donohue turns everything on its head. When I read the last page, I yelled, "GET OUT!" I did not see the ending coming.
BOTTOM LINE: Highly recommended. I think Gaiman fans will find a lot to like here. The book is spooky without being grotesque and violent. The M. Night Shyamalan-style ending will delight readers and make them want to start the whole book over again. The perfect read for cold evenings by the fire.