Saturday, February 12, 2011

Arty -- Solitary by Travis Thrasher

Chris Buckley's family has just gone through a painful divorce. Now, he and his mother move to her old hometown of Solitary, North Carolina. As it turns out, Solitary is as creepy as its name suggests - packed with more dark secrets and mysteries as a sixteen-year-old should be able to handle.

But what really gets Chris's attention is Jocelyn Evans - the most beautiful girl in his school. She also happens to be the most troubled girl in his school. Of course, Chris falls head over heels for her. Jocelyn resists at every turn - still, they can't help being drawn together. But when Chris tries to uncover the darkness in Jocelyn's life - when he tries to help her - he only ends up deeper than ever in Solitary's tangled mass of twisted secrets.

So this is what it feels like to read a cliché done beautifully, horribly right.

Because I'm a character person, I have to mention the characters first. Chris was adorable. At once naive and mature, the kind of guy who doesn't like to be told what to do but will do anything for someone he loves, he came off perfectly. Not perfect, but perfectly. Jocelyn was amazing too - no annoying, empty-headed heroines here. I could totally see why Chris fell in love with her.

That's another thing - this was basically a love story, put in a suspense/horror novel sheath. But it wasn't shallow, saccharine romance. It was actually about Chris and Jocelyn becoming friends, building trust, and taking care of each other. Very, very effective.

As were the actual suspense and horror sections. Thrasher writes in first-person present-tense, and I've rarely seen someone handle it better. It's like you're stationed in Chris's head, watching everything with his eyes. You know how he ticks. You know what he'll do. And all the while you're screaming Don't do it, Chris!!

The mental-journal approach sometimes gets a little obvious - Thrasher has a love for one-sentence paragraphs.

It gets annoying.

Sometimes it's cool.

But sometimes, not so much.


Thrasher also has a tendency to put in small plotlines and then abandon them completely for chapters at a time. You get a sense that he's just tossing them into the mix for the fun of it. I hope they'll make a difference in the rest of The Solitary Tales. Time will tell.

While not as disturbing as Unwind, perhaps, Solitary can get seriously creepy. And emotional. And if you don't gasp and reread the climax and maybe shed a few tears, you have no soul. So, definitely, get the book. And the next, called Gravestone (can it get better than that?), which comes out June 11.

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