Alternative name for this review: Fifty Shades of Fuck That, pardon my french.
This book is the definition of horrifying. It pushed on literally one of my worst fears. Despite all that, I devoured it and that's really ironic considering the subject matter.
In The Troop, Scout Troop 52 is taking it's annual camping trip to Falstaff Island. They're cut off from the mainland for a whole weekend with no cell phones or computers, only a radio for communication and the trust that a boat will come for them at the end of the adventure. Then The Hungry Man shows up, impossibly thin and carrying something within that will challenge every boy's worst nightmare.
I loved this book. It was simply incredible. Part of it was how unique it really was. When I first read the premise I thought it was going to be a zombie-like situation. Which, I was fine and down for, but come on. Zombies are not the most unique thing in horror. Then I get worms and when I realized that my heart sank and sped up at the same time. Seriously, when was the last time a horror movie had worms that weren't exactly monsters, just animals? It was original, incredibly unique and that made it all the more horrifying.
One of Cutter's greatest strengths is he knows how to create a suffocatingly ominous atmosphere. The kind that makes you read something super innocent and go, "Oh no." Like when Scoutmaster Tim wanted crackers. Or when Kent had the sip of scotch. Or just an article in a magazine written after the incident. It was nothing overt. Just a little sentence that immediately connected all the dots in your head and made you go, "Oh no." And made me not want to read on because I knew what was going to happen but I HAD to read on and see what was happening. It's like the worst (read: best) kind of horror because I was pushing myself into the situation further, despite the anxiety and terror it caused me. It's just so well done I'm floored.
If I had to describe this book in one sentence, I would say Lord of the Flies meets Alien. There are so, so many threats to the boys' safety - the worms, surviving stranded on an island, fucking Shelley - that it creates sort of the perfect disaster. Best of all, it had a natural rhythm too it. At no point did it feel like, "Oh, things are fine, better throw this in to stir drama up". Every obstacle in the story had a place and a purpose and I really applaud Cutter for that because I have read survival stories in particular that don't do it as well.
Along with being scary, this book is heartbreaking. You come to really know these boys and they're very complex characters. Sure, maybe they're little shits in the same way all teens are little shits but I loved them. I didn't want to see them suffer but it's horror so of course they have to suffer. That made it hard to read at a lot of points but the story is so intense and had me so sucked in that I had to read it. Which really, I think that's a sign for a terrific book.
Final rating: 5 out of 5. Won't read it again any time soon because it scared the bejesus out of me but I want to. I hunger for it, if you will.
Final thought: Last time a book shook me up as much as this one, it was The Mist by Stephan King. Fog still makes me uneasy.