What happens when the horrors of family relationships cause innocent boys to seek refuge in a dark, dank place which has its own secrets and a terrible past? A nice creepy southern gothic tale of innocence lost.
About: As usual the Jackson family gathers for a summer vacation at the decrepit old family house on Gull Island that is owned by old grandmother Rowena Wandigaux Lee. And, as usual, the parents, auntie, uncle and grandmother are soon drinking, squabbling and arguing. A mixture of embarrassment, boredom and annoyance drives the young children to seek escape and entertainment beyond the confines of the house and the grown-ups.
Beau’s cousin Sumter has found an old abandoned shed in the woods, and the fact that they are forbidden to go near the shed adds greatly to its appeal. The somewhat strange cousin soon starts to play somewhat strange games in the shed. At first Beau willingly joins in, but as their imaginations run wild the games become ever stranger, inexplicable things start to happen, and Beau’s sisters are also drawn into the circle. As the group plays at worshipping a god that Sumter seems to have created, events (and Sumter) start to spiral out of control.
It transpires that both the place and the family have some dark secrets which the children gradually start to uncover, but as they do so a terrible past starts to open up and plays havoc with the family and the island.
John’s Thoughts: I found the book a little slow to start, but once it got going it moved along at a good pace and kept me hooked. Told from the point of view of the young Beau, the story is a nice mix of strained family dynamics, growing pains, believable characters, creepiness, and a scary tension that builds to a nice climax. I think that Clegg does a really good job of capturing the essence of young pre-teens and how they react to people and to situations. I also like that there isn’t an overly simplistic demarcation between right and wrong, leaving you to ponder some of the complexities, much as you have to in real life. But above all else, this is a really strong piece of storytelling.
I’m not entirely sure if the book was intended primarily for a YA or an adult audience, but I think it bridges the needs of both and could appeal to either. If you like a strong story with well-developed characters and a big dollop of horror, then this one is for you. I’d rate it 4 stars.
Neverland ~ by Douglas Clegg
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