Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Ghoul by Brian Keane

Title/Author: Ghoul by Brian Keane

Genre: Horror

Publisher: Leisure Books.

Source: Purchased at Borders.

Favorite character: Hmmm. I’m going to go with the Ghoul.

Favorite quote: The dead kept their silence; kept their secrets.

All in all:  I didn't love it but it kept my interest and I wanted to know what happened.

What I didn’t like: I’m going to start with what I didn’t like this time.  There is a lot of telling in this novel and if you’ve read any of my reviews, you know how I feel about this. I also had a hard time getting through the first few chapters as the author describes the neighborhood in detail, the three main characters and their family life.  There were also a lot of asides and flashbacks which took me out of the story.

I really love coming of age stories. There is something magical about that time in your life. This one held similarities to A Boy’s Life by Robert McCammon (loved) and The Body (or Stand By Me) by Stephen King (excellent) and Summer of Night by Dan Simmons (Hell yeah!).  A lot of stories have been “done before” and what makes them enjoyable is finding a fresh way to tell it, strong characters and a unique plot.  However, in Ghoul I didn't feel close enough to the story to get lost in it.  A lot of the people in the book came off as characterizations not characters.  One that comes to mind is Timmy's father.  I had an easier time accepting the monster than some of the people.

The other thing that stuck out to me is the numerous references to the time period of 1984. It’s always fun to take a trip down memory lane, but at times it seemed to be a list of pop-culture from that era.

I really wanted to know what happened after. Timmy’s father didn’t believe him about the ghoul. But Timmy outwitted it (with some help) and even saved someone's life. What happened next? It would have been so interesting if I could have seen Timmy get vindicated. But that’s where the book basically ended. *SPOILER ALERT: The other thing that bothered me was the way Barry turned out. The Epilogue shows Timmy re-visiting the town 20 years later. He sees Barry and it turns out his childhood friend has followed in his abusive father’s footsteps. I know, I know. Most abusive people were abused themselves, but it still made me sad after everything Barry did to overcome his father. END SPOILER ALERT*

What I liked: I liked the Ghoul. He was unique and interesting. Creepy, icky, gross…everything a monster should be. And yet, he had a vulnerable side too. I also really liked his backstory.  It was interesting and compelling and this was one of the most unique aspects of the book.  There was also some good tension when people were prowling around his lair.  And the gore was deliciously disturbing.

Despite everything I didn’t like about this book I did want to find out what happened, and I kept turning the page.  There were some parts that I also liked about Timmy and his realizations of that summer.  One of the most touching scenes was when his friend confessed a secret to him.  He sort of knew what his friend was going to tell him, but he was afraid for it to be said aloud.  "A loss of innocence..."  he called it.  This was the point of no return in some ways.  Timmy has to take responsibility for knowing a secret.  He has to make decisions based on it.  Keep his friend's secret or tell an adult who could take the responsibility from him.  I think this also spurred him on to try to solve the crisis of the ghoul himself, but I'm just making inferences here.  At another point in the book Timmy talks about how when fighting monsters you have to be careful that you don't turn into one yourself and he cites an example of their plan to foil Catcher, a neighborhood dog, that terrorizes them. I felt this was an interesting analogy to the secrets his friends had, his feelings regarding the adults around him as well as any "real" monsters.

After I wrote my review I read a lot of others about Ghoul and many people said that this book did not hit the mark, but several of Keane’s other books are great. So even though I didn’t really like this one, I will give his others a try.

I'm going to give this a 2 1/2 out of 5 stars.
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