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The Waking Dark

Review

The Waking Dark

Daniel Ghent ventures out on a sticky-sweaty summer Tuesday to buy a Coke or an ice cream sandwich in Gathers Drugs on Main Street in Oleander, Kansas. Inside, Mr. Gathers smiles from behind the counter while several locals shoot the breeze. They all greet Daniel, commenting on the weather and the general decline of their tiny town. Mr. Gathers wonders if Daniel is inviting a pretty girl to the upcoming church picnic. It is all so ordinary, so common-place...until Mr. Gathers pulls out a shotgun and murders every customer except for Daniel, who has instinctively dived to the floor. He huddles there, waiting to face his own death but when he finally, shakily rises, he finds that Gathers shot himself, too.

"Fair warning: this is not the book for the faint-hearted or less than strong-stomached reader, due to graphic, gory violence and general shuddery creepiness. Still, it is a definite page-turning, cannot-put-it-down homerun for the right audience."

Jule Prevette, opening the door to her shabby mobile home, squatting in a compound of similar family-owned shabby mobile homes, discovers a too-happy girl ready to share "the Word" with her. Jule rudely dispatches the visitor, slamming the door in her face. But the scene within her home is even more disturbing, with her mother's horrible boyfriend (dubbed "the parasite" by Jule) demanding more beer. Jule's mother sends her out to find it. When Jule knocks on the door of her favorite uncle and his girlfriend, Gloria, she hears strange yowling sounds within. Finally, she opens the door. What she sees is beyond horrifying: Uncle James is bleeding from a hole in his belly while Gloria lurches from the bathroom, staring in disbelief at a knife in her own hand and also bleeding profusely from a stab wound in her stomach. Through bubbles of blood, she says, "I did that," adding, "Why did I do that?" before dying.

The girl who had attempted witnessing at Jule Prevette's door is Ellie King, who now sits in the office of the Church of the Word, contemplating her failure to make a connection with Jule. Ellie masks her revulsion for people like Jule with her smiling, be-kind-to-others demeanor. At the moment she is praying for inspiration, but receives no answer. The church should be empty but she hears breathing in the nave. She peers through the gloom to find (brace yourself) a man nailed to the church's cross. It's the handyman, Henry Pierce, who urges her quietly to leave. As she runs, she's relieved to spot the church's reverend emerging...until she sees that he is bloody and carrying a can of gasoline and a lighter. She can only watch as the kind, sweet Reverend Willet sets Henry Pierce and himself on fire.

Football player and dater-of-girls West has begun a secret romantic relationship with his buddy Nick. They are parting on a deserted country road after being together when a black Chevrolet roars up behind Nick, slamming into him and ramming him repeatedly into a tree. Nick dies before West’s disbelieving eyes.

Cassandra Porter babysits even though she dislikes children. She is watching 12-year-old Gracie Tuck and Gracie's baby brother, Owen. With the baby napping and Grace up in her room, Cass falls asleep, only to wake from a nightmare. She feels, gut deep, that something is wrong and has to force herself to climb the stairs and enter Owen's room. She laughs in relief to see the baby smiling and gurgling in his crib, realizing for the first time how cute he is as she picks him up and cuddles him. What happens next...well, let's just say it's the worst thing imaginable.

A year passes in Oleander before the evil blackness stirs and rises again. Now, an unlikely group of teens, survivors of that unspeakable summer day of death, must do battle against that unfathomable wicked force --- if they can.

Fans of Stephen King's most horror-filled horror books are sure to absolutely love this well-written story, populated with three-dimensional (that is, seemingly people we might actually pass in our school's corridors or have as friends) teens on a nearly impossible quest. Fair warning: this is not the book for the faint-hearted or less than strong-stomached reader, due to graphic, gory violence and general shuddery creepiness. Still, it is a definite page-turning, cannot-put-it-down homerun for the right audience.

Reviewed by Terry Miller Shannon on September 9, 2013

The Waking Dark
by Robin Wasserman

  • Publication Date: September 10, 2013
  • Genres: Young Adult 12+
  • Hardcover: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
  • ISBN-10: 0375868771
  • ISBN-13: 9780375868771