Top critical review
Genuinely creepy--but the ending was a disappointment.
October 15, 2018
I got this book because I have heard from so many people and websites that it was one of the "scariest books of all time." While I would say that the story itself was honestly creepy, I had a few issues with the execution.
I want to start off by saying that I really did enjoy the story (the end is another matter!) but the story itself was pretty well-plotted and definitely give you the chills at points. For that reason, I would recommend it.
I loved the use of the out of sequence flashbacks in the story, as it gave you a chance to visit terrifying things that happened in the MC's life when they were necessary. However, the writing was frequently pretentious and oftentimes didn't suit the situation in the novel. Most of the book was written from the perspective of the author recalling events from his childhood, but sometimes the descriptions were entirely too over the top and a bit pedantic. I found myself skimming over several sections of too much detail, which I found a bit disappointing for a novel that's already so short.
The adventures that the 5-6 y.o. MC goes on with his friend seem WAY too much for boys so young. When you think about them being in kindergarten and learning their shapes and ABCs while also coming up with complex schemes to explore the woods, there was a huge divide there that made it difficult to suspend any kind of disbelief. I also found it hard to believe that the MC's mother would allow him out of the yard after she learned what was going on. I know several other reviewers have had issues with the logistics of the housing situation and how his mother was so poor but was able to move them across town to a "better" house, but I don't think those facts really affected the story for me.
The ending was honestly so disappointing that I flipped forward a few pages just to see if I'd missed something. I understood why Josh would have been taken in place of the MC, but only because at a seemingly random point, one of the other characters mentioned that he looks like the MC's twin except for their hair color. However, the idea that the MC's mother wouldn't tell him that Josh had run away, or even mention the chance that it was kidnapping and not a teenage rebellion streak to the parents was infuriating. She knew that the same EXACT thing had happened to her son and never discussed this with anyone, including her son's best friend who apparently looked SO MUCH LIKE HER SON that he eventually got taken in his place. And she never has any kind of frank discussion with her son when he's a teenager, after his friend disappears, that there might be somebody out there who wants to hurt him, and that she's only trying to protect him. It would be a hard conversation, but frankly, necessary after his best friend gets taken in the exact same circumstances. I also had a problem with the final reveal. Why did Josh's dad call the MC's mom? Why not call the police? How did he not notice that there was a giant box in the yard he was filling in?
Not to mention, I was severely disappointed that there were no further reveals from the Mrs. Maggie character. What did she mean when she said her dead husband was home? Were we supposed to believe that the stalker was there, and she was just confused? And if she was really so excited that he was home, why didn't she invite the kid she thought was her son inside to see his father?
Overall, it was a good spooky read with a less than spectacular finale. However, I would recommend it for the chills, as long as you're okay with a possibly confusing ending.